Credit 
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How To Get A Free FICO Credit Score

Your FICO credit score is increasingly becoming one of the most important numbers in your life. I’ve written about what’s in your FICO credit score as well as how to get FICO credit score estimates, but never how to get the actual three-digit FICO score calculated by one of the bureaus.

While the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act (FACTA) and Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) did wonders to shed light on the credit reporting industry and the data they are collecting on all of us, the light wasn’t bright enough. There is no way for you to get a free FICO credit score unless you sign up for a trial with one of the bureaus or with Fair Isaac Corporation directly.

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 Credit 
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Understanding FICO Credit Scores

For the first twenty years of your life, the most important measure of your future were your grades in school. Scored well, you got into better schools and tougher classes. Scored poorly and you didn’t. Just about the time I thought grades stopped mattering, I learned about my FICO credit score.

This little three digit number has caused so much consternation in its lifetime you’d think it was invented hundreds of years ago. Would it to surprise you to learn that the FICO score, for all its flaws, is actually an improvement on its predecessor? Before the Fair Credit Reporting Act in 1971 (full text of the FCRA), credit reporting agencies did whatever they wanted.

They collected whatever information they could find and sold it to whomever was willing to pay. The idea of a “credit score” didn’t emerge until the 1980s when Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) put the data through a magical black box equation and spit out a three digit FICO score.

Pique your interest? Enough of the history lesson, let’s learn about FICO scores, how they are calculated (as best we know), and get on with this Foundation Series post!

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 Credit 
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MyFICO ScoreWatch Review: Perfect for Credit Score Junkies!

30-Day Free TrialA few years back I saw Cap track his FICO scores as he went about his personal finance business. In that eight chapter epic (here’s chapter one, there’s a list of each chapter at the top of the post), his score fluctuated as he took on 0% balance transfers for arbitrage, took advantage of credit card offers, and otherwise just did typical consumer stuff. At the time, his tracking tool of choice was a service offered by Providian, nowadays there’s a better option – MyFICO.

MyFICO is run by Fair Isaac Corporation, the company that designed the FICO score equation. The main idea behind their services is that your credit score is one of the most crucial statistics you have about yourself and, much to their benefit, a reflection of your ability to repay debts. So many things depend on your FICO score these days. I’m sure you’re aware that your credit is pulled when you request a loan or a credit card, but did you know it’s used when you apply for a job? It’s used when you apply for an apartment? It’s used a lot more often than you probably think. While I personally don’t track my credit score every single day, many people do and when they do, they use MyFICO. If you’re less hardcore about your score, you might do as well just using free credit score estimates.

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 Credit 
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How Your Credit Score Affects Interest Rates

I was taking advantage of a promotion by myFICO and Equifax that let you see your credit score for free (it was a promotion for the first 10,000, sorry :( , but it was also no strings from what I could tell, I already had an Equifax login from checking my credit history for free annually, so it took 10 seconds) when I saw these charts comparing credit scores to APRs on various loans, here’s one for a 30 year fixed mortgage:

Credit Score 30 Yr. Mortgage
760-850 5.766%
700-759 5.988%
680-699 6.165%
660-679 6.379%
640-659 6.809%
620-639 7.355%
600-619 9.158%
580-599 9.744%
550-579 10.117%
500-549 10.502%



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 Credit 
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Do-It-Yourself Identity Theft Protection

Identity TheftLast Friday I discussed the CEO of LifeLock’s appearance on the Today Show and how many of the services they offer are things you can do yourself. So, rather than leave it all vague, here’s what you can do for a do it yourself solution.

AnnualCreditReport.com

Through AnnualCreditReport.com, you can request a copy of your credit report from each bureau once a year. I generally like to stagger it every 4 months so you can keep up to date absolutely free. For example, get your Experian in January, then your TransUnion in May, then your Equifax in September, then Experian again the following January.

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 Credit 
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Sallie Mae Reporting Error Lowers Equifax Credit Scores

Oops Sallie Mae Dropped My Equifax Credit ScoreIf you have a student loan from Sallie Mae and recently opted for graduated or extended repayment plans, Sallie Mae probably reported your recent loan payment as a partial payment to Equifax and they marked it as delinquent. If all that happened, your Equifax credit score, one of the most important numbers of your adult life, took a big hit as a result of that reporting error (or “glitch,” as they would say) by Sallie Mae. Sallie Mae, based out of Reston, Virginia, happens to be the largest student lender in the United States and this mistake has caused a significant drop in credit scores, as many as a hundred points!

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 Credit 
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How To Start A Credit History

When you’re young, have little or no income, and want to build a credit history, it’s really difficult. The current credit environment has made it much more difficult so here are a few methods I’ve used, or have seen recommended, in the past in order to build your credit history.

One tip that has been removed from lists like these is the Authorized User tip. In the past, a parent could add a child onto one of their accounts as an authorized user and the child would see credit history benefits. Many people took advantage of that by “renting” out these authorized user slots and so FICO responded by cutting that link. Now, it appears, that authorized users have no bearing. This is the case of people trying to subvert the system for profit and the system, rightfully, punishing everyone. You can read more about the whole authorized user practice here.

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 Personal Finance 
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Investigating A Error On My Equifax Credit Report

When the Federal Reserve lowered the target federal funds rate last week, lots of people started inquiring about refinancing options to see if they could get a better loan. I was among the crowd. I requested refinancing information through LendingTree and fielded a few offers before deciding that refinancing was not a viable option for me at the moment. One of the lenders pulled my credit and Equifax was obligated to tell me about it.

I learned that my score was a 643, not surprising that it’s not an awesome score because I recently closed out some balance transfer arbitrages, but the listing of items that adversely affected my score did concern me:

  1. 78 – Serious delinqncy, derog, public recd or collection with balance
  2. 58 – Insufficient length or lack of credit history
  3. L – Length of time since legal item filed or collection item reported
  4. F – Prop. of bal. to high cr. on bk rvlvng or all rvlvng accts
  5. Y – Inquiries impacted the score but not significantly

Items 2 isn’t much of a concern overall and items 4 and 5 are certainly related to my balance transfer arbitrage days, but what about Items 1 and 3? Legal item? Collection item? Delinquency? This calls for a trip to the Equifax for a copy of my credit report (my one freebie each year) and a side trip to their Equifax Online Dispute page.

After reviewing my account, there was one entry in the Collections category for an account with “PPL ELECTRIC UTILITIES,” a power company that appears to be located in Pennsylvania. About a year ago I cleared up some errors on my credit report from another bureau for a cell phone that wasn’t mine, an social security number linked to my account plus some address history; could this be a leftover from that account? It appears so.

What’s infuriating is that the other SSN was identical except a six was replaced with a zero and Equifax felt it was “close enough” to link to my account! I don’t understand why it didn’t have to be an exact match. Anyway, I submitted a dispute and we’ll how quickly they can get that resolved.


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