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
In an emergency you might need some extra cash fast.
Having your emergency fund at the ready would be ideal to cover your conundrum, but what if your emergency fund has been depleted, or you can’t or don’t want to use a credit card or line of credit to get through a crisis?
There are other options out there – a cash advance or a payday loan.
But beware – these options pose some serious caveats. Both carry high interest rates and both are aimed at those who are in desperate need of money on short notice. So before you commit to one of these options, let’s pause and take a close look at why you might be tempted to use them, and how they compare to other credit products, like credit cards or traditional loans.
The Cash Advance
If you already have a credit card, you may have noticed the cash advance rate associated with that card. Many credit cards offer a cash advance option – you would go to an ATM and retrieve cash, and the amount would be added to your credit card’s balance. However, there is usually no grace period for cash advances.[i] Interest would begin to accrue immediately.
Furthermore, the interest rate on a cash advance may often be higher than the interest rate on credit purchases made with the same card. For example, if you buy a $25 dinner on credit, you may pay 15% interest on that purchase (if you don’t pay it off before the grace period has expired). On the other hand, if you take a cash advance of $25 with the same card, you may pay 25% interest, and that interest will start right away, not after a 21-day grace period. Check your own credit card terms so you’re aware of the actual interest you would be charged in each situation.
The Payday Loan
Many people who don’t have a credit history (or who have a poor credit rating) may find it difficult to obtain funds on credit, so they may turn to payday lenders. They usually only have to meet a few certain minimum requirements, like being of legal age, showing proof of employment, etc.[ii] Unfortunately, the annualized interest rates on payday loans are notoriously high, commonly reaching hundreds of percentage points.[iii]
A single loan at 10% over two weeks may seem minimal. For example, you might take a $300 loan and have to pay back $330 at your next paycheck. Cheap, right? Definitely not! If you annualize that rate, which is helpful to compare rates on different products, you get 250% interest. The same $300 charged to a 20% APR credit card would cost you $2.30 in interest over that same two week period (and that assumes you have no grace period).
Why People Use Payday Loans
Using a cash advance in place of purchasing on credit can be hard to justify in a world where almost every merchant accepts credit cards. However, if a particular merchant only accepts cash, you may be forced to take out a cash advance. Of course, if you can pay off the advance within a day or two and there is a fee for using a credit card (but not cash), you might actually save a little bit by paying in cash with funds from a cash advance.
Taking a payday loan, while extremely expensive, has an obvious reason: the applicant cannot obtain loans in any other way and has an immediate need for funds. The unfortunate reality is that being “credit invisible” can be extremely expensive, and those who are invisible or at risk of becoming invisible should start cautiously building their credit profiles, either with traditional credit cards or a secured card[iv], if your circumstances call for it. (As always, be aware of fees and interest rates charged with the card you choose.) Even more important is to start building an emergency fund. Then, if an emergency does arise, payday loans can be avoided.
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.
One of the things that many people do not know when they do relocation - even after a few years in the States - is that the long arm of the United States Treasury stretches overseas, reaching your assets and bank accounts in Israel. There is something important that you were not being told, not in line at the embassy, not in the immigration control at the entrance to the country, and not even at work: you probably have to file the FBAR.
What is FBAR?
The FBAR is not really a tax form. The full name of the form is the Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, and its purpose is to report to the authorities - whether you are an American citizen or not - on any financial or real estate property outside of the United States each year, regardless of whether you earned it or not. The good news is that you can fill out the FBAR electronically.
Do I have to file an FBAR?
You must submit FBAR only if your assets outside the United States are higher, or have risen at some point this year, than $10,000. If that's the case, not only do you have to file but if you do not, you can get a $25,000 penalty, and sometimes even more.
What is the deadline?
Good news: You have until June 30th to submit the FBAR.
So how do you do that?
All in all, it's quite simple. Go to this link (https://bsaefiling.fincen.treas.gov/NoRegFBARFiler.htm) and if all your documents are ready, start the online form. The instructions on the screen are pretty clear, but you need to finish everything with a stroke so you may want to download a PDF of the form in advance, to understand exactly what you need.
Once you have finished, press Ready to File and look at your form and go up to the system. How simple that's how important.
Home insurance, also commonly called homeowner's insurance (often abbreviated in the US real estate industry as HOI), is a type of property insurance that covers a private residence. It combines various personal insurance protections, which can include losses occurring to one's home, its contents, loss of use (additional living expenses), or loss of other personal possessions of the homeowner, as well as liability insurance for accidents that may happen at the home or at the hands of the homeowner within the policy territory.
Being a multiple-line insurance policy, it includes both property insurance and liability coverage, with an indivisible premium and all the risks are paid for with a single premium. Thus, it covers both damage to your property and your liability for any injuries and property damage caused by you or members of your family to other people. It may also include damage caused by household pets. Coverage limits are typically provided as a percentage of the primary Coverage A, which is coverage for the main dwelling. Whether it's your first apartment, a starter home or a retirement condo, find a policy that protects your property - and most of your other important stuff, too.
As you compare prices and coverage offered by different companies, there are five most important things you need to know:
-You should buy enough home insurance to cover the cost of rebuilding your home.
- Your landlord's insurance won't cover your furniture and other household appliances and equipment.
-Having a good inventory is worth your time.
-Replacement cost coverage may be worth the extra expense.
- A home or renters insurance policy doesn't cover everything for example, earthquake, flood etc.
Any basic home insurance policy usually covers at least the following five coverage:
Dwelling coverage -- this is what covers your home. It serves as a basis for all homeowners insurance policies and provides protection for the structure of your home including the floors, walls, built-in appliances, and ceilings, as well as any attached structures. It also covers a variety of perils including fire, hail, theft, and vandalism – and can help you rebuild your home in the event of a total loss (up to your policy limit).
Other property insurance covers structures on your property that aren't attached to your home. Other property includes a detached garage, a shed, or a fence.
Personal property coverage -- this is what covers the property within your home such as your furniture, electronics, clothing, etc
Liability coverage -- consists of bodily injury damage coverage, which covers costs if a guest sustains an injury in your home or elsewhere, and property damage coverage, which kicks in if your property is damaged as a result of a covered accident. This is what covers you in case a visitor suffers a serious injury and sues you.
Additional living expenses -- this is what covers you in case your home is uninhabitable, and you need to live elsewhere.
Ensure to find out from your chosen homeowners insurance policies the home's replacement cost, the maximum coverage (flooding, earthquake,), the discounts, the effect your credit score has on your rates, Homeowners insurance deductibles. When you buy property insurance the most important thing is to make sure you are not under-insured. Be sure to calculate the total value of all the entirety of your property – you can’t pick and choose what you want to be covered. You should request a Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) Report for your new home to see the claims that the homeowner filed. Insurance companies are all about preventing risk. If they see that the home had multiple claims in the matter of a few years, you will pay higher rates. An insurer may even decline coverage.
The type of insurance policy you buy for your business/office may differ depending on the size and type of business you are running, your insurance budget and whether any of your clients have requirements about what insurance cover you should have.
Common Business insurance includes:
Public liability insurance that protects you against claims for compensation from people outside your business who have suffered an injury or whose property has been damaged because of your business.
Employers' liability insurance which protects you if an employee is injured or becomes ill because of their work.
Property insurance protects your business building and assets.
Professional insurance protects your business by paying for this compensation and legal costs.
You may feel confident that you know what insurance to buy but not how much. For public liability and professional indemnity, you will need to choose a limit of cover which is right for your business. Think about the type of work you do and what could go wrong in the worst case scenario – how much might it cost, especially if a dispute went to court. Buy a level of cover which you are confident will cover the cost of compensation you might have to pay. Employer’s liability insurance is required by law if you have employees.