Keep track of your financial history to avoid future problems
Is your financial history sound? When was the last time you took a look at your personal files? Were they favorable? Your credit report and FICO score tell only part of the story. Do you pay your mortgage or rent on time? Are your medical bills lingering? Many people aren't aware of where their financial history stands until they attempt to buy a home, take out a business loan or make a major purchase. Those in a position to give you a line of credit, health insurance or even a job are learning about your financial history from a host of specialty consumer reporting bureaus that know a lot more about you than just your FICO score. And what they learn about your history can affect your credit worthiness and determine your interest rate.
If you don't know what's in your files, it's time to find out. Some simple sleuthing can help you confirm the accuracy of your reports, and put you in the driver's seat when it comes to shopping for personal and financial services.
Start with your FICO
The "Big Three" national credit bureaus are Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. These bureaus track your credit history and report a snapshot summary of it in a three-digit score known as your FICO. Higher scores earn you faster loan approval and better interest rates, among other perks. It's a good idea to request your report at least once a year and check it for accuracy. Federal law allows you to get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each credit reporting company. Contact the credit bureaus immediately with any disputes. If your score is low, consider working with a financial professional to learn what steps you can take to bring the number up.
Access your credit file by contacting:
- Equifax (800-685-1111) or www.equifax.com
- Experian (888-397-3742) or www.experian.com
- Trans Union (800-888-4213) or www.transunion.com
Beyond the 'Big Three'
Your credit score and report aren't the only part of your financial history. Specialty consumer reporting agencies operate much like the credit bureaus and collect personal and financial information about you from a variety of sources. Reports can offer detailed descriptions of your medical conditions, check writing history, homeowner and auto insurance claims, tenant history, criminal records and more.
Unfortunately. there is no centralized place where you can access every available report, and not everyone has a file in every category. Still, it's good to check, especially if you plan to apply for credit or private insurance, or if you've been the victim of identity theft.
Following are some bureaus that issue reports:
Insurance Claim History:
- ChoicePoint CLUE Reports: 1-866-312-8076
- A-Plus Reports: 1-800-627-3487
- Medical Information Bureau for Medical History: 1-866-692-6901
- Tenant History: 1-877-448-5732
- SafeRent: 1-888-333-2413
Checking and Savings Account Reports:
- ChexSystems: 1-800-428-9623
- Shared Check Authorization Network (SCAN): 1-800-262-7771
Many consumers are in the dark about information in their credit file and other specialty reports. Don't wait until you've been denied a job, insurance or a credit application. Do your homework now because when it comes to background and credit checks, knowledge truly is power.