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
Have you lived outside India for more than 182 days in the financial year (Apr-March)? If yes, then for tax purposes, you are an NRI (Non-Resident Indian). As per FEMA (Foreign Exchange Management Act) guidelines, it is illegal for NRIs to hold savings accounts in their name in India.
Instead, you will have to convert those accounts into NRO (Non-Resident Ordinary Rupee) accounts. Additionally, it is a good idea to open an NRE (Non-Resident Rupee) account as well. These accounts are needed only when an NRI wants to have a bank account in his/her own name in India to hold savings, earn/invest in India and wants to freely transfer funds between US and India. (If you don’t have any Indian bank accounts, you can still send money to someone in India via money transfer services, wire transfers or Telegraphs, or buy something in India with International Credit Cards).
What is the NRO account?
The NRO account is a savings or current account held in India for NRIs to manage their income earned in India. All income which is receivable in India such as rentals from property, investments, pension etc have to be deposited in this account. Any payment towards insurance premiums or EMIs on loans which you availed while in India also has to be mandated from NRO account.
You can apply for an NRO account jointly with a resident Indian in which the bank will give you both an NRO debit card each. Alternately, you can add a mandate holder for the account who can carry out certain operations of the account on behalf of the NRI like drawing cheques to make local payments, make and renew fixed deposits, and invest in avenues open for NRIs. Any foreign currency deposited into the NRO account will convert to Indian rupees.
Even though funds from NRO account are now repatriable up to $1million (with a certificate from a Chartered Accountant for payment of taxes and other repatriation fees), it is advised to keep these India based earnings in India, in the NRO account. Note that interest earned in the NRO Account is subject to TDS (Tax Deductible At Source) at 30.9%.
And what about an NRE account?
The NRE account comes to the rescue, for NRIs wanting to transfer funds between US and India. One can deposit only foreign currency earned abroad in this account, which gets converted into INR at the time of deposit. Therefore, you may repatriate the money in this account (plus interest earned) any time without incurring income/wealth/gift tax. The benefit of repatriation and taxation is the main benefit of the NRE account. Some Indians move their US savings to the NRO accounts, invest in India in high yield instruments, and re-transfer and use that money in the US. Transferring funds between and NRE and NRO account is straightforward and simple. Additionally, with the NRE account, you will receive an international debit card that enables you to transact and withdraw money at any time (withdrawal in INR).
However, a joint NRE account can be opened only with another NRI. You cannot use your NRE account for receiving funds/income/interest in India. To make local bill payments, purchase property, etc. in India you will have to move funds from your NRE to NRO account first. This is how the government regulates the inflow of foreign money to India.
Please contact your Indian Bank now for details on opening and managing your NRE and NRO accounts.
To read more about related topics, check these out:
So, you’re here in the United States to complete your studies. Congratulations, you’ve taken the first step. We know you might have thought of everything before coming here. However, there are still some challenges that you might face during your stay as a student here in this country.
Don’t worry. We’re here to help you at every step of the way.
Here are some challenges that you may face and some tips on how to tackle them.
This is one of the biggest challenges that you may face here. No matter how many English TV shows and movies you’ve seen, it won’t prepare you for the “Culture Shock” you might face here. India is a culturally rich country. We have our customs and traditions and so is the case with United States.
The language, accents, holidays, a completely different sporting culture, the customs, way of greeting, smiling, personal space – all of it might just seem very overwhelming at first. But slowly and steadily you’ll fit right in.
Here are some tips and solutions that may help you:
- Be prepared for these challenges – For a Cultural Shock. We know how it sounds. That is no solution. But we really believe that if you are prepared for what is about to come, you will not be hassled when it is actually happening with you.
- Teacher-student relationships are rather informal in the United States- particularly compared to the Asian education system. Get an understanding of how students and teachers interact.
- Be open to making new friends as soon as you can upon arrival. Also look to your fellow study abroad students as a support network and a place to share and learn about common practices in the United States.
- Read about tipping practices in the United States.
- Figure out the different modes of transportation in the US
Let us first acknowledge the fact that studying in US is quite costly. With an approximate fee of 50k USD per year, you are already spending a lot of money. Especially for Indians as the value of Rupee is not so great compared to the US dollar.
Most of us have taken student loans back in India and are already trying to save every penny here. But your tuition fees in not the only cost that you’ll have to take care of. There are other additional costs that you’ll have to bear such as Food, Travel, Rent, Entertainment, Healthcare and other smaller miscellaneous costs.
Here are some tips and suggestions to manage your costs:
- There is a scholarship for nearly every topic of study and minority group. Other scholarships are merit-based (based on high achievement and extracurricular activity) or need-based (applied when an applicant meets certain financial criteria). Some are available for United States citizens only, but many are available for anyone. You can't get the scholarship unless you apply, so talk to your school's financial aid office for scholarships specific to your school and look at an online directory like Fastweb for more options.
- Please have a good health insurance. Healthcare in the US is a bit messed up and you might end up with hefty bills if you don’t have good health insurance. We have a guide for this too.
- Work a part-time job. Some on-campus jobs for students include positions in the school cafeteria, bookstore, library, or gymnasium. While it's unlikely you'll be able to earn enough to pay the majority of your expenses, a part-time job can help cover books, clothing, and personal expenses. Be sure to note U.S. working regulations for international students. You can check out our guide on the same.
Starting out as a new student in a program abroad can feel intimidating and lonely, so try to step out of your comfort zone and get to know as many people as you can while you are getting acquainted with your new home for the duration of your studies.
- Get to know other students in your program who are going through the same social changes. Attend optional meetings and outings and sign up for any weekend trips or excursions.
- Get involved in student groups on campus- volunteer and academic groups are generally a great place to start. Your university should have a listing of all active student groups available.
- Befriend local students, as they can help get you acquainted with the school and introduce you to new friends. Sit next to them in class and offer to partner with them on projects.
- Attend local events. Free apps like Now and Like a Local can zero in on your location to help you find cool spots and happenings nearby.
With so much else going on, it can be easy to focus on everything but your school work, but remember that your academic experience is what brought you to the United States.
While your studies should always come first, this can be a challenge if you discover that U.S. language and classroom expectations are different than in your home country.
Follow these solutions, focus on your studies, and embrace your new culture so you can have an educational and fulfilling experience.
- Talk to the professor. While it may be intimidating to talk to a professor who lectures in front of hundreds of students at a time, his or her job is to teach. Take advantage of office hours if you are unable to stay after class.
- Ask your guidance counsellor for a student mentor's email address and connect with him or her.
- If you are not clear on an assignment, talk to the professor, a teacher's assistant, or another student from your class. In America, study groups are common. Joining a study group for your difficult classes can help you learn better, collaborate with other students, and give you an opportunity to receive a little extra help clarifying assignments and coursework.
Ask most Indians what they miss the most and they’ll say Indian food. Though there’s a lot of Indian food available in most of the cities here in USA, you may not find everything to your liking and may also find it overpriced. Because – Dollars.
The only solution is to learn cooking. Trust us, once you learn how to cook, not only will you start saving a lot of money, but you’ll also add a life skill and you’ll never miss Indian food again anywhere you go.
Understanding Plagiarism and Academic Honor Code
Believe it or not, many times international students are unfamiliar with the term and concept of plagiarism, at least in the way that Americans understand it. Working in groups can be very confusing for international students as they believe they are completing the assignment together but may not understand that they cannot then copy verbatim their classmates work.
Unlike American students who have been told and guided through what plagiarism looks like since grade school, international students are starting with a blank slate.
Perceptions of plagiarism are mostly based on historical and cultural assumptions. Many of the policies and guidelines set for students may not be specific enough for a foreign population. The language barrier can play a role in this situation as well.
Some Solutions and Suggestions:
- Speak with your professors often. Utilize them as a resource from the very beginning. Familiarize yourself with well-known American plagiarism guidelines sites like Purdue Owl Writing Lab.
- Speak with your academic advisers to gain resources provided by the university. The university should be speaking openly early on with international students about plagiarism and the severity of breaking an academic honor code in the states.
After high-school comes college, which is known as undergrad here. Another term for the same is Bachelor’s. Though a student attending college is usually referred to as an undergrad. This can be a bit confusing because in India the same this is called graduation (and the student – graduate).
Only with a high-school diploma, students can enroll in post-secondary education. It is important to know that colleges and universities require certain high school credits or tests (e.g. SAT) for admission, and students must plan their high school career with those requirements in mind.
To study further after high-school, Americans have to usually give a test. This test is known as the “SAT reasoning test”. SAT tests a person on 3 skills namely: Maths, Critical Reading and Writing. Students who wish to get into a good college need to have a high score in their SATs.
The SAT Reasoning Test is a standardized test for college admissions in the United States. The SAT is owned, published, and developed by the College Board, a non-profit organization in the United States. The College Board claims that the SAT can determine whether or not a person is ready for college. The current SAT Reasoning Test takes three hours and forty-five minutes.
Your college admission is not just dependent on your SAT scores. It also takes into consideration your grades in school. During their high school years, students are given "grades" for all their courses, and these are recorded. At the end of 12th Grade, the pupil's grades are averaged out to provide a "GPA" or Grade Point Average, which will often be used as a selection criterion when they apply to college or university.
In the first 2 years of undergraduate course, students take courses that pertains to their core curriculum which will help them meet the prerequisite for their degree. These would be basic subjects like History, Literature, Science, Social Studies based on your course. For these 2 years, a student can either go to a college/university or attend a community college. After the 2 years the student will get an AA degree (Associate of Arts degree) and in third year, they must choose a major. This major is the field in which they intend to specialize.
The next 2 years is intensive education in their respective major.
When you pick a major. You are selecting a specific field where your degree and expertise will be focused.
Students can change their majors anytime, but that would require more tuition fees and more credits to be completed and may increase the number of years that they may take to complete their college.
Higher Education Options:
State Schools: A state school or a college is one that is run and supported by the state it resides in. each state has at least one and some have many. Some of these colleges are very good and getting into those colleges can be quite difficult and competitive.
Private Schools: as the name suggests, these are private colleges, have higher fees, fewer students but the students get more attention. There is usually an interview process to get into these colleges.
Community College: Community colleges offer two types of two-year Associate Degree programs.
There is an academic transfer option. Whereby you can take the courses necessary to earn an associate of arts or sciences. And then transfer those course credits to a four-year university. Where you will select your major and finish your degree. It’s important that you take transferable courses if you intend to use them at a state or private school.
You can also go to community college. And follow a degree track designed to get you into the workforce after completion. These courses are sometimes non-transferable. But the goal of the program is to help you secure employment with job-specific skills upon graduation.
If you want to go into a field that requires hands-on training. Like becoming a hair stylist or auto mechanic. You’ll need to attend a technical school. These programs vary in length. But when you complete them, you will be qualified to test and get licensed in your desired profession.
Graduate Studying or Master’s:
After obtaining your four-year degree. Then you have an option to extend your schooling to pursue a Master’s Degree. To further specialize in your field of study.
Graduate programs are traditionally a division of a college or university. And you will need to apply and take a graduate record examination (GRE) to be accepted. If you want to attain certain types of master’s degrees. Like one in law or medicine, you may also need to take specialized tests like the LSAT or MCAT.
Master’s programs are designed to take between one and two years to complete. And you will need to submit a research paper called your master’s thesis to pass.
After you’ve managed to finish all of this and still want study there’s a doctorate program, which is basically your phd.
If you’ve grown up and studied in India, understanding the American Education system can be a bit of a nightmare. We know it was easy for us, Pre-School, School, +2, College and Masters. That was the universal and most accepted language that everyone was familiar with. But here in the US, it is quite different. Yes, the basic structure is still the same, but there are different terms and one might just get overwhelmed with all the new terminologies.
Here’s a guide that may help you understand the basic Education structure here in USA.
Education System Structure:
Age Newborn to 5 years: Early Childhood Education -
Day Care is one form of early childhood education. Day Care refers to early childhood settings that focus their goal on substitute care for children while their parents are absent (i.e.: working or in school). They could involve academic training, or they could involve solely socializing activities. Day Care is not required and is not free; in fact, depending on the setting, it could be quite expensive.
Day Care programs usually offer daily programs, for up to 12 hours. Meals, depending on the school, may be provided by the family or by the school.
Transportation to and from the program is generally the responsibility of parents. Some private day care programs might offer private transportation, but these are the exception rather than the rule.
Parents’ degrees of use of Day Care services vary greatly across families, depending on their specific situation (i.e.: parents’ schedule, availability of funding, etc.).
Pre-School (also called Pre-K or PK or Pre-Kindergarten) refers to the first formal academic classroom-based learning environment that a child customarily attends in the United States. It begins around the age of three in order to prepare for the more moral and academically intensive kindergarten, the traditional "first" class that school children participate in.
Pre-Schools differentiate themselves by equally focusing on harvesting a child's
(1) social development,
(2) physical development,
(3) emotional development, and
(4) cognitive development.
They commonly follow a set of organization-created teaching standards in shaping curriculum and instructional activities/goals.
Pre-School is not required. On the other hand, it acts as a way to prepare children to better succeed in a kindergarten. Pre-School programs usually offer two- or three-hour sessions per day, a few days per week.
Children learn the alphabet, colors, and other elementary basics. Pre-School programs are not free: they have to be financed by the family. Meals, depending on the school, may be provided by the family or by the school. Transportation to and from the program is generally the responsibility of parents (although some pre-school programs might make busing available to families for a fee; these programs are the exception, rather than the rule).
To give you a perspective, Pre-schools is like the Nursery schooling in India.
Age 5-18 Years – K-12 Education.
K-12 education refers to all primary and secondary education, from Kindergarten prior to the first year (or 1st grade) of formal schooling, through secondary graduation (12th Grade).
Basically, it is from KG to +2. A student typically spends 12 years in school which is why it is named K-12. Yes, not so creative. We know.
It is further divided into different sections as follows:
- Elementary school (K-5) – Primary School in India
- middle school (6-8), - Secondary School in India. Though in India, secondary school is until class 10.
- high school (9-12); This is the +2 of India.
U.S. children enter formal schooling around age 5. Elementary students are typically in one classroom with the same teacher most of the day.
Unlike schools in India, where students are in the same class the entire day and teachers change classrooms, out here it is the opposite. Here, during Middle School, they usually move from class to class each period, with a new teacher and a new mixture of students in every class. Students can select from a wide range of academic classes and elective classes. This is the most different thing here in US. Students are actually given a range of subjects to choose from and they can select them based on their like and dislikes. Unlike in India, where the subjects are fixed by the school. That’s a big positive according to us.
Families have the option to select before and after school programs < School-Age Child Care >, which are generally made available through the school. However, these programs are not free: the family will have to finance their cost. If the programs are in a location different from the school grounds, transportation from and to school will be provided by the school.
In High School, students in their first year are called freshman, in their second-year sophomore, in their third-year junior, and in their last and fourth-year senior.
There is an even greater variety of subjects than before. Students generally stay in the classroom an average of 7.5 hours and must earn a certain number of credits (which they get for a successfully completed course) in order to graduate and be awarded with a High School Diploma – there is no final examination like in many other countries. The number and combination of classes necessary depend on the school district and on the kind of diploma desired.
In the next part of this guide we deal with the undergraduate and the post-graduate structure.