About credit reports
Many members of OAS Staff FCU join the credit union because it allows them to open accounts in the United States, which would be near impossible to accomplish via a bank. It also helps establish a credit report and history, which can open many doors later in life.
OAS FCU was created for the purpose of providing financial services to foreign nationals who would otherwise have little or no access to credit. It has decades of experience serving its unique international membership, while meeting the stringent requirements of the US government about offering services to foreign nationals.
One of the main reasons that it’s hard to deal with banks is that most foreigners in the US lack a credit history. Even after living in the United States (or having a US-account) for years, you may find yourself hard-pressed to obtain credit.
That’s because you’ve been unable to establish a proper credit history, or may have messed it up unknowingly along the way. I have been asked by the credit union to write on credit histories: what they are, and how to help you improve or establish a good credit history. A good credit history creates a good credit report.
A little bit of history
In 1899 a pair of brothers decided that they could profit by gather people’s payment histories to banks in Florida, to then try and sell these histories to future lenders, and the first credit history reporting agency was born. That was Equifax, by the way.A credit history report is just as its name explains: a record of your loan or obligation history. When you borrow money, write checks, make payments, get a cell phone contract, or one with the electric or gas companies, a record is created with each of them. Afterwards, they keep track of your history. For decades now, they have also been sharing this payment information with credit reporting agencies.
The credit reporting agencies gather all the data of your obligations, and create a report that details how much you owe, how timely you pay, how many times you have been late, and many other details.
In the last two decades, credit reports have also started to gather other information: your work record, your insurance payments, your medical bills, court records, bankruptcy and even penal record are now available via credit reporting agencies.
The four credit agencies of the United States are: Experian, Equifax, Innovis and Transunion.
Is it fair?
That subject is much debated. Up until the 1980s these agencies gathered information without ever allowing for consumer input, complaints, or requests for adjustment of errors. The US government decided to look into the matter, and over the next two decades it created laws that stipulated things to be as follows:
- Limited the scope of what a report could show, and how it showed the information,
- Set the time limits for different types of information staying on a credit history,
- Allowed for free periodic credit reports to consumers, and
- Set a system by which consumers could demand that erroneous data be investigated and corrected.
Nowadays and in my opinion, yes, it is fair. If I am a good borrower, always pay on time, I don’t over-extend myself and keep my finances in line, I’m a creditworthy borrower. Lenders should have a way to find out about me and offer me good loan terms. The same way they should know if I’m late on my payments now and then, had a bankruptcy three years ago, or have had checks returned unpaid.
I don’t live in the United States. Do I have a credit report?
Yes, you do. Every nation has its own credit reporting agencies. Some countries are more consumer-friendly than others. and you may be able to get your credit report more or less easily because of that. Check online to find out more on your nation’s agencies.
I live in the United States; can I see my credit report?
Yes, if you live in the US you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report each year. You may request it at here.
Additionally, if you applied for a loan, insurance, or any type of contract and were denied, the law entitles you to request a free credit report from the agency used to deny your request.
Is my credit report the same as my FICO score?
No, though your FICO score is based on the information on your report. It is a number from 150 to 950 that gives an evaluation of all of your credit report in one sweep. It is based on:
- Your payment history
- The amounts you owe
- The time you have had your debts
- When and what your newest credit requests were for, and
- The type of debts that you have.
Your FICO score will be higher the better you have been when it comes to borrowing and paying. It also means that you will be able to obtain loans and contracts with more advantageous terms than others. That is because you are considered to be a responsible consumer.
I need to improve my credit, how can I do that?
We have an whole article on how to build your credit from the ground up. Check it out!