America runs on credit. Most people use credit cards to buy the things they need and want. To apply for a credit card, a car loan, or any type of loan, for that matter, you will need a good credit score. The credit system in the USA is a well-developed, complex system.
Prior to moving to the USA, I had two credit cards with a combined credit limit of PhP 35,000. I don’t think there is a similar system of credit reporting in the Philippines.
Quick Disclaimer: The content of this post and this website is NOT financial advice but only provided for informational and educational purposes. Please do your due diligence in all matters related to your finances.
What is a credit score?
A credit score is an index, a three-digit number that potentially represents your ability to repay debts. Banks and other lenders consult your credit score to make a decision if they will let you open a credit card or a loan.
A lower credit score means that you are less likely to be able to pay debts. A higher credit score means that you are good at managing your credit and that you are a trustworthy borrower.
Three main credit bureaus in the US create credit reports: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. They use different systems of creating your credit report but it is usually based on several factors such as the number of accounts you have open, timely payments, and a few others.
Why is it important?
Your credit score will impact the bank or lender’s decision to let you open a credit card or a loan. It will also determine the interest rate that they will charge you. Interestingly, the lower your score, the higher the interest that lenders will charge you, even though you probably need more help in your financial situation.
When we first moved to the USA, the very first thing I needed was a car. It cost about $12,000 to buy one. I didn’t have that amount of cash. So I had to finance it, which is to say that I needed to apply for a car loan.
The problem was I did not have a credit history or a credit report then. The dealership where I bought a car from requested my credit score to around 11 loan providers. Big mistake! I should not have let them do it. It affected my credit score negatively even before I had a chance to start building one.
The dealership offered to finance my car loan, but their lending partner would have charged me a 24% interest rate!
No thank you! Thankfully, our office had a relationship with a Credit Union, which offered me a 7.5% interest rate. That’s a different story.
Five ways to check your credit score for free
If you have not started building your credit yet, please read this post. It contains tips for you to build a good credit score.
Please note that you will need to provide your Social Security Number to any website that will check your credit score.
You can sign up for an account at http://CreditKarma.com. This service is free. I think they make money through the recommendations they provide within their website. This service is easy to use and they update your credit score once very week.
Mint is a personal finance app and website that logs all income and expenses you make on debit & credit cards, bank accounts, and loans you connect to the site. They also provide free credit report access monthly.
Banks also provide a free credit score, usually if you have a credit card with them. If you have a US credit card, they may provide you free access to your credit score once a month.
This website is mentioned in the website of the Federal Trade Commission (https://www.ftc.gov/faq/consumer-protection/get-my-free-credit-report). You may also read more information about protecting your identity and credit report here: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0155-free-credit-reports.
Credit reporting agency websites.
You can also go directly to the websites of Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. They do provide free access to your credit score at least once a year.
A couple of caveats & disclaimer:
Be careful in providing your Social Security Number to websites. Only use trustworthy websites.
The content of this post and this website is NOT financial advice but only provided for informational and educational purposes. Please do your due diligence in all matters related to your finances.