I held off getting my free annual credit report until after November 30, 2008 since that was the three-year anniversary of my personal bankruptcy being discharged. I actually waited until New Year's Eve to request the reports, but more because I forgot than by intention. I was able to get my Experian and TransUnion reports online immediately, but the Equifax Web site refused to give me my report or credit score, vaguely suggested that there "might" be some sort of "lock" on my account or other unknown reason for denying my access and that I would have to request the report in writing and supply proof of ID. A few days later I managed to find a customer service phone number and actually managed to get through to someone what spent some time figuring out how to unlock my account at Equifax so that I could then access both my free credit report and purchase the FICO credit score.
I did get credit scores from TransUnion and Experian, but they use a different scoring method and do not give you the more popular "FICO" score that comes from Equifax.
Although the credit reports were free, I did have to pay to get the credit scores, $5.95 from Experian, and $7.95 from TransUnion and Equifax.
My TransUnion score was 741, which would be great if it was a FICO score, but that is 741 out of 501-990 which is only a grade "C" which is "average" and only at the 37% percentile.
My Experian score was 752, out of 501-990, a "risk grade" of "C", which is a "credit category" of "Prime", and at the 51.16% percentile. Not bad for a fairly recent bankruptcy and so many credit card problems four years ago.
Finally, my Equifax FICO score is 698, out of 300-850, which is at the 41% percentile of U.S. consumers. Not great, but acceptable given a recent bankruptcy.
Overall, although my score is clearly somewhat weak, I am reasonably satisfied with it after going through personal bankruptcy and all of the associated negative items on my credit report.
I have three credit cards in good standing, but I actually get dinged for not carrying any balances that show I am making payments on debt.
I got dinged since my new accounts have been opened for a relatively short period of time (roughly two years.)
I also get dinged for not having any "installment" accounts, such as car loans, or any real estate (mortgage) accounts.
Finally, I got dinged for running credit cards up near their credit limits, even though I did not exceed the limits and did not miss any payments and in fact paid off the statement balance every month.
What is the bottom line? According to Equifax, my "Bottom Line" is:
This is generally recognized as a good score, and a wide array of loans and credit products will likely be available to you, often at attractive rates. Most lenders will view consumers with a score as high as yours as an acceptable risk. Even so, remember that lenders often incorporate other information into their decision process, in addition to the FICO score, so you might be offered different rates or terms by different lenders. Nonetheless, most lenders agree that scores such as yours indicate an acceptable level of risk.
My main regret over the past year is using my credit cards up near their credit limits (due to my move to NYC.) It would have been easy for me to have used them differently or used my debit card instead.
I have no intention of buying a house or a car, and my credit limits are not likely to rise in this economic climate, so my main opportunities for a higher credit score next year will be that I will have been out of bankruptcy longer and my new credit card history will not be a year longer. I suppose I could consider some form of installment purchase, maybe for a new computer, just to boost my credit score, but I really do not want to waste money on paying interest, and besides, my score may be good enough (or close to as good as I can make it) for any near-term purposes. In fact, I actually do not anticipate any credit-related need for my credit score this year.
In truth, I would just like another two points to get me to "700" since that "7" handle sounds so much more "credit worthy."
Note: To get your free annual credit reports, make sure to start from the FTC Web site. There are quite a few Web sites that are offering fee-based credit services with a "free credit report" and possibly even a free credit score as the sign-up enticement, but then you get stuck with some monthly fee.
Hmmm... I wonder if signing up for a monthly service from Equifax would boost my FICO score. Technically, it should not (no actual debt since it can be canceled at any time), but who knows.
-- Jack Krupansky