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
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.
With so many financial institutions to choose from, choosing the right bank can be confusing, but whichever company you ultimately choose to go with, be sure that it is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
To open an account, you need the following: ●a form of ID for example a foreign passport ●proof of address, ●your Social Security number (SSN).
You may be able to open an account online with some banks although you will still need your SSN and activate the account at the bank’s branch in person. Banks banking disclosures will include: The interest rate and annual percentage yield of the bank accounts Bank charges etc. Compare the following most common bank account features while deciding what bank to use Bank Rates which includes the interest rates, interest compounding and annual percentage.
●Interest Rate –expressed as a percentage, it is the amount of interest due per period say for a full year. You should inquire on the interest rate, starting interest rate after you open the account and the relationship between your bank account balance and interest. You will be told when you will start earning interest either from your ledger balance or from collected balance.
●Interest Compounding– When your money earns compound interest in a bank account, the interest earned is added to your balance on a regular basis. You will be told how often the interest is compounded.
●Annual Percentage Yield (APY) – Expressed as a percentage, it reflects the amount of interest you will earn for each deposit made on a yearly basis. You should know the minimum balance required before you can start earning interest.
Basically, there are five types of bank accounts you need to know: ● Checking Accounts (with or without an ATM card) When you deposit money into a checking account, your bank will give you checks (in a small book form) giving you quick, convenient, and frequent access to your money. You can write checks to purchase items, pay bills, or to withdraw. You will be charged various fees on your account such as when you order a check, balance inquiry fee etc. Find out the fees your bank will charge. A regular checking account (at most banks) will not draw interest, although some will offer special rates or special accounts known as negotiable order of withdrawal accounts
You cannot legally drive or purchase a car in the US without car insurance. This is how you do it:
Required car insurance coverage:
Bodily injury liability
$15,000 per person
$30,000 per accident
Property damage liability
$5,000 per accident
This means that in the event of an accident, your insurance will pay a maximum of $15,000 for one person’s medical bills, and if more than one person is injured, the most they will pay is $30,000. Your insurance will also only pay $5,000 towards property damage. However, it’s important to check if your state is considered an “at-fault state,” which means there are no restrictions on accident-related lawsuits.
It’s important to mention that minimum coverage only covers other people’s damages. If you don’t buy any additional insurance, you’ll have to cover your own damages yourself. Comprehensive and collision insurance, which cover physical damages to your vehicle, isn’t mandated by law, but are required by lending companies if your vehicle is leased or financed.
So what are my other options?
There is, of course, optional coverage that you can purchase which isn’t mandatory, but highly recommended. Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage covers you if the other person involved in a car accident isn’t insured.
Medical payments insurance is also highly recommended and will cover the medical bills of you and your passengers regardless of fault.
Other types of optional coverage include towing and roadside assistance and rental reimbursement, which covers the cost of a rental car while yours is being repaired after an accident.
If you want to make sure you’re getting the best coverage possible for the lowest cost, talk to an insurance agent.
There is a penalty on getting caught driving with no insurance. If you’re a California driver caught on the road uninsured, you’ll face a fine of up to $200, and up to $500 for a second offense.
Taking the decision to become a U.S. citizen is one of the most important decisions you can make while living in US. You show your commitment to the United States and your loyalty to its Constitution by taking this decision and in return, you are rewarded with all the rights and privileges that are part of U.S. citizenship. Becoming a citizen involves that you must be willing to swear your loyalty to the United States, give up your allegiance to any other country; and support and defend the United States and its Constitution. As a permanent resident, you have most of the rights of U.S. citizens, but still there are many salient reasons to consider while becoming a U.S. citizen, such as:
● voting in elections.
●serving on a federal jury which is an important responsibility for U.S. citizens
● traveling with a U.S. Passport and getting assistance from the US government, if necessary.
● bringing your family members permanently to the United States
● obtaining citizenship for children born overseas.
● eligibility for federal jobs
● becoming an Elected Official
● permanent residency: A U.S. citizen’s right to remain in the United States cannot be taken away.
● eligibility for federal grants and scholarships
● obtaining various available government benefits
You may become a U.S. citizen either at birth or after birth after you meet certain requirements,.
To become a citizen at birth, you must:
-have been born in the United States; OR
-had a parent or parents who were citizens at the time of your birth (if you were born abroad)
To become a citizen after birth, you must:
-Apply for “derived” or “acquired” citizenship through your parents
-Apply for naturalization
Becoming a U.S. Citizen through Naturalization
Citizenship gained through the process of naturalization, which is the primary method of acquiring U.S. citizenship, is in almost all respects the same as citizenship gained through other means such as through birth, or being born of citizens of US.