Your credit history is important to a lot of people: mortgage lenders, banks, utility companies, prospective employers, and more. So it’s especially important that you understand your credit report, credit score, and the companies that compile that information, credit bureaus. This brochure provides answers to some of the most common, and most important, questions about credit.
Your Credit Report
What is a credit report?
A credit report is a record of your credit history that includes information about:
Your identity. Your name, address, full or partial Social Security number, date of birth, and possibly employment information.
Your existing credit. Information about credit that you have, such as your credit card accounts, mortgages, car loans, and student loans. It may also include the terms of your credit, how much you owe your creditors, and your history of making payments.
Your public record. Information about any court judgments against you, any tax liens against your property, or whether you have filed for bankruptcy.
Inquiries about you. A list of companies or persons who recently requested a copy of your report.
Why is a credit report important?
Your credit report is important because lenders, insurers, employers, and others may obtain your credit report from credit bureaus to assess how you manage financial responsibilities. For example:
Lenders may use your credit report information to decide whether you can get a loan and the terms you get for a loan (for example, the interest rate they will charge you).
Insurance companies may use the information to decide whether you can get insurance and to set the rates you will pay.
Employers may use your credit report, if you give them permission to do so, to decide whether to hire you.
Telephone and utility companies may use information in your credit report to decide whether to provide services to you.
Landlords may use the information to determine whether to rent an apartment to you.
Who collects and reports credit information about me?
There are three major credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—that gather and maintain the information about you that is included in your credit report. The credit bureaus then provide this information in the form of a credit report to companies or persons that request it, such as lenders from whom you are seeking credit.
Where do credit bureaus get their information?
A: Credit bureaus get information from your creditors, such as a bank, credit card issuer, or auto finance company. They also get information about you from public records, such as property or court records. Each credit bureau gets its information from different sources, so the information in one credit bureau’s report may not be the same as the information in another credit bureau’s report.
How can I get a free copy of my credit report?
You can get one free credit report every twelve months from each of the nationwide credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—by
You will need to provide certain information to access your report, such as your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth.
You can order one, two, or all three reports at the same time, or you can request these reports at various times throughout the year. The option you choose will depend on the goal of your review. A report generated by one of the three major credit bureaus may not contain all of the information pertaining to your credit history. Therefore, if you want a complete view of your credit record at a particular moment, you should examine your report from each bureau at the same time. However, if you wish to detect any errors and monitor changes in your credit profile over time, you may wish to review a single credit report every four months.
Who else is allowed to see my credit report?
Because credit reports contain sensitive personal information, access to them is limited. Credit bureaus can provide credit reports only to
lenders from whom you are seeking credit;
lenders that have granted you credit;
telephone, cell phone, and utility companies that may provide services to you;
your employer or prospective employer, but only if you agree;
insurance companies that have issued or may issue an insurance policy for you;
government agencies reviewing your financial status for government benefits; and
anyone else with a legitimate business need for the information, such as a potential landlord or a bank at which you are opening a checking account.
Credit bureaus also furnish reports if required by court orders or federal grand jury subpoenas. Upon your written request, they will also issue your report to a third party.
Does the credit bureau decide whether to grant me credit?
No, credit bureaus do not make credit decisions. They provide credit reports to lenders who decide whether to grant you credit.
How long does negative information, such as late payments, stay on my credit report?
Generally, negative credit information stays on your credit report for seven years. If you have filed for personal bankruptcy, that fact stays on your report for ten years. Information about a lawsuit or an unpaid judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer. Information about criminal convictions may stay on your credit report indefinitely.
What can I do if I am denied credit, insurance, or employment because of something in my credit report? What can I do if I receive less favorable credit terms than other consumers because of something in my credit report?
If you are denied credit, insurance, or employment—or some other adverse action is taken against you, such as lowering your credit limit on credit card account—because of information in your credit report, the lender, insurance company, or employer must notify you and provide you with the name, address, and phone number of the credit bureau that provided the credit report used to make the decision. You can get a free credit report from this credit bureau if you request it within sixty days after receiving the notice. This free report is in addition to your annual free report.
In addition, lenders may use a credit report to set the terms of credit they offer you. If a lender offers you terms less favorable (for example, a higher rate) than the terms offered to consumers with better credit histories based on the information in your credit report, the lender may give you a notice with information about the credit bureau that provided the credit report used to make the decision. Again, you can get a free credit report (in addition to your annual free report) from this credit bureau if you request it within sixty days after receiving the notice.
If you receive one of these notices, it’s a good idea to get your free credit report and review the information in it right away. If you think your credit report contains inaccurate or incomplete information, follow the steps in Credit Report Errors below, to try to resolve the issue. For tips on how to improve your chances of being granted credit, or to improve your chances of receiving credit on better terms, read the Federal Reserve’s 5 Tips for Improving Your Credit Score (available online at https://www.federalreserve.gov/pubs/creditscore/creditscoretips_2.pdf).
I’ve been receiving unsolicited credit offers. Why? Can I opt-out of receiving these offers?
Credit bureaus may sell the names and addresses of consumers who meet specific credit criteria to creditors or insurers, who must then offer them credit or insurance. For example, a creditor could request from a credit bureau the names and addresses of consumers who have a credit score of 680 or higher and then offer credit to those consumers. You can have your name and address removed from these lists by opting-out of the listing. This will reduce the number of unsolicited offers you receive. To opt-out, call 888-5-OPTOUT (888-567-8688) or visit optoutprescreen.com. You will need to provide certain information in order to opt-out, such as your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth. You have the ability to opt-out of receiving offers either for five years or permanently. If you want to opt-out permanently, you will need to fill-out, sign, and mail-in a form. The form is available by either calling the toll-free number or visiting the website. You can reverse your opt-out decision at any time to start receiving offers of credit and insurance again by calling the toll-free phone number or visiting the website.
Your Credit Score
What is a credit score? How is my credit score calculated? A credit score is a number that reflects the information in your credit report. The score summarises your credit history and helps lenders predict how likely it is that you will repay a loan and make payments when they are due. Lenders may use credit scores in deciding whether to grant you credit, what terms you are offered, or the rate you will pay on a loan.
Information used to calculate your credit score can include:
the number and type of accounts you have (credit cards, auto loans, mortgages, etc.);
whether you pay your bills on time;
how much of your available credit you are currently using;
whether you have any collection actions against you;
the amount of your outstanding debt; and
the age of your accounts.
What can cause my credit score to change?
Because your credit score reflects the information in your credit report, changes to your credit report may cause your credit score to change. For instance, if you pay your bills late or incur more debt, your credit score may go down. However, if you pay down an outstanding balance on a credit card or mortgage or correct an error in your credit report, your credit score may go up.
How can I get my credit score?
In some cases, a lender may tell you your credit score for free when you apply for credit. For example, if you apply for a mortgage, you will receive the credit score or scores that were used to determine whether the lender would extend credit to you and on what terms. You may also receive a free credit score or scores from lenders when you apply for other types of credit, such as an automobile loan or a credit card.
You may also purchase your credit score from any of the credit bureaus by calling them or visiting their websites.
How can I correct errors found in my credit report?
If you find errors in your credit report, you may dispute the information and request that the information be deleted or corrected. To do so, you should contact either the credit bureau that provided the report or the company or person that provided the incorrect information to the credit bureau.
To contact the credit bureau, call the toll-free number on your credit report or visit their website:
To contact the company or person that provided the incorrect information to the credit bureau, look on your credit report, in an account statement, or on the company’s website for contact information for handling such disputes.
When disputing information on your credit report, you should:
Provide information about yourself, such as your name, address, date of birth, and Social Security number;
Identify specific details about the information that is being disputed and explain the basis of your dispute;
Have a copy of your credit report that contains the disputed information available; and
Provide supporting documentation, such as a copy of the relevant portion of the consumer report, a police report, a fraud or identity theft affidavit, or account statements.
What happens once I send in information to correct information in my credit report?
If you submit your dispute through a credit bureau or directly to the company or person that provided the incorrect information to the credit bureau, your dispute must be investigated, usually within thirty days. If you provide additional information during the thirty-day investigation, that investigation period may be extended an additional fifteen days in some circumstances. When the investigation is completed, either the credit bureau or the company or person that provided the incorrect information to the credit bureau must give you the written results of its investigation. If the information provider finds the disputed information is inaccurate, it must notify all three nationwide credit bureaus so they can correct the information in your credit report. You can get a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. This free report is in addition to your annual free report. If an item is changed or deleted, a credit bureau cannot put the disputed information back in your credit report unless the company or person that provided the incorrect information to the credit bureau verifies that the information is, indeed, accurate and complete. You can request that the credit bureau send notices of any correction to anyone who received your report in the past six months. A corrected copy of your report can be sent to anyone who received a copy during the past two years for employment purposes.
What if an investigation does not resolve my dispute?
If an investigation does not resolve your dispute, you can ask that a statement of the dispute be included in your future credit reports. You also can ask the credit bureau to provide your statement to anyone who received a copy of your report in the recent past, but you may have to pay a fee for this service
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — the federal law enforcement agency in charge of arresting, detaining, and deporting undocumented immigrants or documented immigrants with criminal convictions — is reportedly begiun nationwide raids, potentially impacting thousands of immigrant families.
Dealing with law enforcement can be stressful, so it’s important to know your rights before you’re face-to-face with ICE agents. While there’s never any guarantee that law enforcement officers will follow the law, here’s what they can and can’t legally do to you and what you can legally demand.
Don’t Open the Door:
Like police, ICE can’t enter your home without a warrant signed by a judge. You can ask ICE to slide their document under the door, if they have one, to determine whether or not it's a judicial warrant.
Ask to Speak to a Lawyer:
A good immigration lawyer can help guide clients through the complicated and often confusing system of immigration law, so find one in your area and discuss your status with them, not with law enforcement. If you're at risk, try to speak with an attorney as soon as possible.
The American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Immigration Lawyer Search lets you specify what kind of immigration law you need help with, i.e., “Deportation - Removal,” and search your local area if you enter a city name or zip code; you can even search by last name if you’re familiar with a lawyer in your area by name but not sure how to find them.
Remain Silent or Tell ICE You Wish to Do So:
You have the right to remain silent in any interaction with an ICE agent, and you can tell them so. What you say can be used against you in immigration court or deportation proceedings, so always be cautious of what you say to ICE or law enforcement and ask to speak to a lawyer before any communication takes place.
Don’t Sign Anything:
Unless you’ve already spoken to a lawyer who advises it you shouldn’t sign any documents ICE asks you to. According to the Miami Herald, signing a document provided by ICE may mean you’re signing your own deportation order.
Don’t Lie or Provide False Documents:
Lying to ICE agents can be dangerous. Providing false documents can be used against you in court proceedings.
Don’t Flee or Resist Arrest:
If you run from ICE, the results can be deadly not just legally dangerous. People who help an immigrant escape ICE can be charged with things like obstruction of justice by the Department of Justice, as was the case with a judge who let an immigrant escape after a court hearing. People who attempt to physically stop an arrest can also be charged with resisting a public officer.
You Don’t Have to Tell Them Where Someone Else Is:
You’re under no obligation to tell ICE where someone they’re looking for is, but you shouldn’t lie. Instead, ask the agents to leave contact information.
You’re Allowed to Ask for an Interpreter:
If an immigrant placed under arrest is not an English-speaker, they can ask for an interpreter during their detention process with ICE.
You Should Make a Plan With Family or Loved Ones:
In the event you are detained, it’s wise to have an action plan in place to handle any immediate concerns like child and pet care, and long-term issues like home maintenance and collecting mail. Attorneys also advise that loved ones have on hand the name and contact information for an attorney so they can make contact in the event of an arrest.
When you are immigrating to the United States, it is natural to want to land on strong financial footing. However, all immigrants face a common barrier: a lack of US credit history. This can impede your ability to get approved for a credit card, apply for a mortgage, or engage in other types of financial transactions. While it’s possible to use cash day-to-day, it is a good idea to begin building a credit history as soon as possible. Building credit can make it easier to apply for a mortgage, get a car loan, rent an apartment, or get a rewards credit card. Even if you aren’t looking to do those things now, you might want to in the future.
Every Couple Should Be Fully Protected with Life Insurance.
Protecting your family with life insurance means not just having life insurance coverage for the primary breadwinner but also for the loved one whose labor – whether it’s inside the home, outside the home, or both – also contributes to the family’s well-being.
That means that every secondary breadwinner should have life insurance. Why? Because if they were to pass unexpectedly, what would it cost a household to:
Replace the income of the secondary income earner?
Cover the long-term expense of raising a child, which can include paying for the child’s education?
Pay for home expenses?
Help pay off a mortgage?
Money can’t replace a loved one and all that they do, but it can make it easier to move on after an unexpected loss.
Work with a licensed WFG insurance agent [HOMEIS USER] to find out how much life insurance you need to protect every part of your family.
Stay tuned for myth #6..
Life insurance is less expensive than most people think.
What’s stopping people from getting the life insurance protection they need? That pesky little myth that it costs too much.
When asked how much a $250,000 term life policy would be for a healthy 30-year-old, most people estimated $500 per year – more than three times the actual cost of $160.*
Don’t let this misconception stop you from protecting your family. Talk to a licensed WFG insurance agent to find a life insurance strategy that’s right for you.
* 2017 Insurance Barometer Study, LIMRA, April 2017.
Stay tuned for Myth #4
Green Card, formally known as US permanent resident card (USCIS Form I-551), is an identification card which shows your immigration status as well as if you are legally authorized to live and work in the United States. It attests to your permanent residency and possessing it does not make you a US citizen. However, it is the first step to becoming a citizen as you are required to secure a green card first before proceeding to apply for naturalization. Other than the right to live and work in the United States, your green card gives you certain rights which include traveling in and out of the country freely as long as you adhere to certain rules, and conditions that come with the card.
There are three main ways to become a green card holder:
-Sponsorship by a family member in the United States
-Sponsorship by an employer’s offer of permanent employment in the United States or through your own entrepreneurship
-Green card lottery
*In some cases, you may be eligible to file for yourself, also known as applying for a green card through self-petition
To qualify for a green card, you must meet the following requirements:
-You must belong to one of the immigrant categories established in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)
-You must have a qualifying immigrant petition filed and approved for you (with a few exceptions)
-There must be an immigrant visa immediately available for you
-You must be admissible to the United States
Every year, about 50,000 immigration visas are issued out through the Diversity Visa (DV) Program also known as Green Card Lottery. This is issued to people born in countries with low immigration rates into the US. Applicants of the lottery only qualify by country of birth and not by nationality. If you are selected, you reserve the opportunity to apply for permanent residence and also apply for your spouse and children who are not married and are under the age of 21. Once permanent residency is granted to you and your family as the winner, on meeting the required conditions, you will receive an immigration visa in your passports which has to be activated on or before six months of issuance at any port of entry into the States. In addition, this attracts a stamp on your visa and a signature on your passport as proof of lawful entry into the United States. Hereafter, you reserve the right to live and work permanently in the United States. Your Green Card afterward will arrive by mail a few months later.
If you decide to apply for a green card through self-petition and you have not stayed past the departure date on your Arrival-Departure Record ( I-94 form), your next step is to apply for an adjustment of your status. You will fill Form I-485 which you can find online at uscis.gov. Ensure that you read the form instructions carefully and submit all required documentation and evidence. After your application is filed, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will ask you to appear at an Application Support Center where your picture, signature and fingerprints would be taken and a background check will be run to ensure your eligibility for green card status. Thereafter, you will then be notified of an interview at a USCIS office to answer questions under oath or affirmation regarding your application. After the process is complete, the USCIS will contact you to notify you of their decision regarding your permanent status.
US Green Cards are valid for permanent residents for a period of 10 years and 2 years for conditional residents. At the expiry of any of these periods, you reserve the right to renew or replace the card. The application can take years and requires a three-step process before it is issued inclusive of petition and processing. During the process of the application, you can obtain two important permits; a work permit and the permit to enter and re-enter the country. Previously, the status of permanent residents when they re-enter the United States after traveling abroad was only checked and if you are not a citizen, you could be asked to present your green card or any other proof to show the validity of your resident status. Currently, it is compulsory that if you are a permanent resident of US and up to eighteen years of age and above, you are required to carry your valid Green Card at all times and to present it on request by an immigration officer. Failure to do this violates the Immigration Nationality Act and would attract a fine of up to $100 and or imprisonment of up to 30 days.
Consequentially, the US authorities reserve the right to revoke the status of your permanent residency if the resident commits an offense that constitutes grounds for deportation. Other reasons to revoke one's residency permit status include; if you spend more than 365 days outside the United States without obtaining permission before leaving if your residency permit was obtained fraudulently, and failure to submit your resident’s income tax report while outside the United States. Failure to renew your permanent resident card does not result in loss of residency status except for conditional permanent residents. It is advisable that you renew your card on time as it can act as a work and travel permit. However, there is no penalty or extra fee for late renewals. Once you lose your permanent residency status, you are expected to leave the US immediately as soon as possible or face expulsion and deportation. In some cases, you can be deported and banned from re-entering the country for three years, seven years or even permanently.
You need to have a general knowledge on credit cards and credit line so that you can fully understand how to get and use a credit card in the US. Without a credit history, you will not be able to open a credit line at one of the international companies such as Visa and MasterCard. Also, if you just came to the US, you have a lot of opportunities to build a credit line. Hence, you’ll have to start small.
First, you will need to open bank accounts, preferably a savings account and check accounts. Wherever you apply for a credit line, the borrower will want to know where you live, work and also manage your bank accounts. The more you live or work in the same place for a longer time, the better your chances.
Many companies that issue credit cards would require you meet certain minimum income requirements and some companies would not issue you credit cards if you do not have a credit line based in the United States. If you already have a credit card from your parent country (Eurocard, Access, Barclaycard, American Express, Visa or MasterCard etc), it would increase your chances of being offered a credit card in the US after your credit line has been checked. Also, banks with which you are an accountant are more likely to receive your credit card request.
Sometimes there is no choice but to purchase on credit while waiting for a credit card - for example, when buying a car – but make sure that you understand the terms of the loan agreement. You may be required to pay high interest rates, sometimes up to 21%. Thus, in order to avoid creating too large a debt, delay the credit card receipt or the execution of large purchases that require a long term debt during your first months in US and also make your first cash purchases or checks. It is recommended that you keep accurate records of your expenses during your first two to three months in US so that you will be able to decide better when to use a credit card and when not to as well as avoid unnecessary mistakes. Also make sure that you read all the details of the credit card offer before committing;
In US, there are several types of credit cards you can apply for: Credit cards, Charge Cards, ATM Cards and Debit Cards.
Credit Cards –helps you to obtain expensive loans from the bank, fuel companies or other stores so you can pay for services and products up to a certain amount called credit limit. Credit limit is the maximum amount that can be owed to a credit company at any given moment. You can either pay the full balance or the minimum amount due. If you choose to pay the minimum amount dues, you will be charged interest on the balance. After getting a credit card, be sure to manage your account wisely by making your payment on time and remaining within the credit limit as these are positive indicators to the financial world. This type of consistency will help give you the opportunity to increase your limit and with it, your purchasing power. The longer you keep it up, the more your credit card will work to improve your credit score, opening a whole new world of financial possibilities.
Charge Cards – You cannot receive a charge card without credit history. This card is of two categories: American Express and Diners Club. You use this card without limit as it does not have maximum credit limit. However, you must make payments at the end of the month or at the end of the month though there is an exception which is payment for a flight, hotel or cruise purchased by a travel agent who is using American Express. This type of payment is made in 36 installments and you will be charged between 19% and 21% and a minimum monthly payment. If you do not pay the full amount (except for the exception given), you will receive a grace period of one month in which you will not be charged interest. Thereafter, you will then be charged an interest rate of 18%. If you do not pay within 3 months, your account will be closed.
Debit cards – This type of card is a combination of checks and credit cards and as such, you can use your debit card as a credit card. This is the only credit card that does not need to prove any credit history, since it “refers” to the cash available to you in your account at any time and you can receive it immediately upon opening the bank account and can be used only in stores and not in the banks themselves. With this card, you can pay bills immediately and not on credit. Some banks can issue an integrated ATM card with the bills being sent to the credit card holders every month. If the payment amount is not paid within a specified number of days, additional “financing fees” are added to the account.
ATM Cards – Most ATM cards also work as debit cards and as such. With this card, you can withdraw money from your account at any time of the day as well as deposit checks into your account, print a mini bank statement, and check your account balance. There may also be a limit to the number of ATM transactions you can perform per month and you can be charged when you withdraw from another bank’s ATM both by the other and your bank.
You would be issued credit cards depending on your type of bank account and credit union you belong to.