Category Archives: Credit Reports & Scores

It’s never too late to fix fraudulent credit reporting errors

This post originally appeared June 14, 2018 on as “How do I remove old negative items from my credit reports?

By Barry Paperno

Dear Speaking of Credit,
How can I go about getting negative things removed from my credit reports?

Almost three years ago, I was the victim of identity theft. My bank accounts were emptied. Plus, I got stuck paying it all back.

There are things on my credit reports I have no idea what they relate to. There also is a notationn that says, “Too many inquiries in the last 12 months.” I surely am not responsible for those credit inquiries.

I really never paid attention to the credit reporting agencies, but I am certainly going to monitor my credit reports from now on. – Richard

Dear Richard,
You should be glad to know that despite the three-year time lapse, it’s not too late to set your credit reports straight.

Unfortunately, however, the same cannot be said for your chances of retrieving the money you spent to replenish those hacked bank accounts. You’ll see why.

First, and perhaps more for future reference, we will take a look at some of the actions you could have taken three years ago that may have led to the bank replacing the money fraudulently taken from your bank accounts.

Next, we’ll list some steps you can take now to remove any lingering fraudulent information from your credit reports, lock up your information at the credit bureaus, and effectively monitor your credit going forward.

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How does replacing ITIN with SSN affect your credit?

This post originally appeared May 3, 2018 on as “Can immigrants transition from ITIN to SSN without hurting their credit score?”

By Barry Paperno

Dear Speaking of Credit,
I just received my Social Security number and I have a couple of credit cards where I use my Individual Taxpayer Identification number.

I want to check if calling the credit card companies and updating my information helps, and also if my credit score will transfer or will be affected somehow?

Will the credit card companies accept this or will they ask me to reapply? Thanks. – Carlos

Dear Carlos,
You’re clearly thinking on your feet here, knowing how strongly our Social Security numbers (SSNs) link to the credit information – including balance, credit limit and account age – that directly determines the content of our credit reports – which in turn determine our credit scores.

Let’s look then at whether you have reason to be concerned about any impacts to your credit picture once your Individual Taxpayer Identification number (ITIN) has been converted to your new Social Security number, along with some credit-protecting steps to take.
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Should you stay away from Cap One over 3-bureau pulls?

This post originally appeared March 8, 2018 on as “Should I avoid applying for a card that pulls all three bureaus?

By Barry Paperno

Dear Speaking of Credit,
I read recently in a Million Mile Secrets story that says some folks avoid Capital One cards because they pull three main credit bureaus when they process your application.

Is that true? If so, does that mean that the credit ding from applying for a Capital One card or loan would lower my credit score more than it does when I apply for cards through other issuers? Thanks! – Jeff

Dear Jeff,
It’s true. I was able to confirm with Capital One that it does indeed pull credit scores from all three big credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – before approving a credit card application.

What makes this rather extensive credit checking process unusual is that card companies traditionally rely on just a single bureau’s information when making a card-issuing decision.

Why does the number of bureau pulls matter? As you’ve pointed out, scores can be impacted by whether the bank pulls one, two or three inquiry-generating credit pulls for the same applicant.

Thus it is the savvy consumer in you that questions whether pulling three scores for a credit card application is a good idea.

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What causes your card company to cut your credit limit?

This post originally appeared February 22, 2018 on as “‘When paying off multiple credit card balances backfires

By Barry Paperno

Dear Speaking of Credit,
I recently had 16 unsecured/revolving credit cards. I paid off/closed six in December 2017. I carry a low/zero balance on 10.

Recently, I received letters from three accounts that my limit was greatly lowered. Two of these were at a zero balance and one has a balance that was paid down to only 10 percent of the limit. I am steadily (within the first quarter of 2018) going to zero out the 10 cards I still owe on.

I thought paying off and either leaving open or closing would show responsibility, but it seems like a punishment. My main goal is to get my score up.

My question is, should I close the accounts that have been involuntarily lowered? Should I just keep expecting letters of lower limits? – Shannon

Dear Shannon,
With those recently lowered credit limits, you seem to have suffered the consequences of a common card company practice called “account review.”

Based on a combination of credit bureau information, credit scores and a card company’s own track record with a customer, the account review process helps lenders:

  • Recognize excellent low-risk customers by raising credit limits and making promotional offers, such as 0-percent balance transfers.
  • Stay a step ahead of cardholders heading for financial trouble by closing credit cards, lowering credit limits and allowing cards in poor standing to expire without renewing.

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Some good credit news and advice for apartment hunters

This post originally appeared December 28, 2017 on as “‘How multiple apartment rental credit checks affect your score

By Barry Paperno

Dear Speaking of Credit,
If I need to run multiple credit checks for new apartment rental approval applications, will this affect my credit?

Also, if I get declined by one or two or more complexes before I find one I want, and then get accepted to move in, will the declines from the prior applications affect my credit? – Robert

Dear Robert,
The topic of how inquiries influence credit scores can be an interesting one. Despite inquiries typically making up less than 10 percent of a credit score, they tend to attract a disproportionate amount of attention from consumers, maybe because of the mysterious and nonintuitive nature of inquiries.

Mysterious, since different kinds of inquiries are not always clearly identified on a credit report.

Nonintuitive, because unlike the more obvious measurements of creditworthiness – payment history and how much you owe, for example – it can be hard to see why your score should drop simply because a creditor or landlord checked your credit.

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Is your score always better when it includes a paid-off loan?

This post originally appeared December 14, 2017 on as “‘Adding paid-off credit account to my report; is it worth it?

By Barry Paperno

Dear Speaking of Credit,
I purchased a vehicle from a dealership and paid off that vehicle. How can I add that payment history to my credit report and credit score? – Groanis

Dear Groanis,
It sounds like the dealership provided you with financing that wasn’t reported to the credit bureaus.

The loan’s omission from your credit report most likely resulted either from a reporting error or the lender simply choosing not to report loans to the credit bureaus.

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Why do you never seem to see the same FICO score twice?

This post originally appeared December 7, 2017 on as “‘Q&A: ‘Why is there a difference between my credit scores?

By Barry Paperno

Dear Speaking of Credit,
I have been working on my credit for about seven months. All of my FICO 8 scores are around 700, but my mortgage scores are Experian v2 at 612, and TransUnion 4 at 645.

How can I raise these scores? Why is there such a difference? – Charles

Dear Charles,
Whatever depths your credit scores have risen from over the past seven months, you should feel good about those FICO 8 scores reaching the 700 mark.

But then, with those TransUnion 4 and Experian v2 scores so much lower – about a 78-point spread from highest to lowest – you may have good reason to feel like something isn’t right.

Yet there may be nothing wrong with your scores. You may simply be seeing your scores just doing what scores do, as part of a complicated credit reporting and scoring system made up of many moving parts.

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Can the ‘high balance’ for a card or loan affect your score?

This post originally appeared November 30, 2017 on as “‘Q&A: ‘High balance:’ What it is, how it impacts credit score

By Barry Paperno

Dear Speaking of Credit,
How is the “high balance” amount on my credit report calculated? Does it affect my credit score in any way? – Patrick

Dear Patrick,
The “high balance” (also called “high credit” or “original amount”) is an oftentimes overlooked item on a credit report trade line that reflects the highest amount owed on that account over a set period of time.

The few score calculations that rely on this information fall within the “amounts owed” credit scoring category, which makes up 30 percent of your score.

For most consumers, these “high amounts” have little effect on their scores. Yet, as you’ll see, there are occasions, particularly with credit cards, when this high amount can seriously affect your score via one of the most influential sets of score calculations – revolving utilization.

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How does your credit score measure your oldest account?

By Barry Paperno

Dear Speaking of Credit,
I came across an article you wrote and thought I’d ask you a question I can’t seem to find an answer to – hoping you might know.

I know the age of your credit history matters, but I’m confused… is it the length of age since you’ve opened your first credit card account or is it the length of age of the oldest credit card account you currently have opened? Or is it both?!

I have a card that’s relatively new but still a few years older than other cards that I have, but I want to close this account. But not if the fact that its a couple years older than my others keeps my credit score higher. Thanks! -Jim

Dear Jim,
Along with your newest account and average credit age, it’s the age of the oldest account on your credit report that matters to your score. This is regardless of whether not it was truly your first credit account.

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Behavior scores are another measure of creditworthiness

This post originally appeared November 9, 2017 on as “‘Q&A: How cardholder behavior can impact your credit

By Barry Paperno

Dear Speaking of Credit,
I have a question about credit scores and how they might be affected by a declined charge.

Here is what happened that prompts my question: I recently had to buy new tires for my vehicle, and it was over $500. My credit line is $500 and I tried multiple times to pay using my credit card, until I remembered my credit limit is only $500.

Now it shows up in my recent transactions as declined. My question is, will this affect my credit score?

I have tried searching this on many sites and even asked my credit card company. I have been finding different answers to my question. Some say I will not be affected, and others say I will.

Any clarification on this matter would be great. Thank you. – Tom

Dear Tom,
Multiple rejections for a charge that would have exceeded your credit limit may or may not affect your credit score. It depends on the type of credit score.

Usually when we speak of credit scores, we mean the “credit bureau risk scores” that rely entirely on credit information from your credit reports at the three national credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

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