Ever wonder how a lender decides whether to grant you credit?
For years, creditors have been using credit scoring systems to determine if you’d be a good risk for credit cards, auto loans, and mortgages. These days, many more types of businesses — including insurance companies and phone companies — are using credit scores to decide whether to approve you for a loan or service and on what terms. Auto and homeowners insurance companies are among the businesses that are using credit scores to help decide if you’d be a good risk for insurance. A higher credit score means you are likely less of a risk, and in turn, means you will be more likely to get credit or insurance — or pay less for it.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, wants you to know how credit scoring works.
What is credit scoring?
Credit scoring is a system creditors use to help determine whether to give you credit. It also may be used to help decide the terms you are offered or the rate you will pay for the loan.
Information about you and your credit experiences, like your bill-paying history, the number and type of accounts you have, whether you pay your bills by the date they’re due, collection actions, outstanding debt, and the age of your accounts, is collected from your credit report. Using a statistical program, creditors compare this information to the loan repayment history of consumers with similar profiles. For example, a credit scoring system awards points for each factor that helps predict who is most likely to repay a debt.
A total number of points — a credit score — helps predict how creditworthy you are — how likely it is that you will repay a loan and make the payments when they’re due.
Some insurance companies also use credit report information, along with other factors, to help predict your likelihood of filing an insurance claim and the amount of the claim.
They may consider these factors when they decide whether to grant you insurance and the amount of the premium they charge. The credit scores that insurance companies use sometimes are called “insurance scores” or “credit-based insurance scores.”
Credit scores and credit reports
Your credit report is a key part of many credit scoring systems. That’s why it is critical to make sure your credit report is accurate. Federal law gives you the right to get a free copy of your credit reports from each of the three national consumer reporting companies once every 12 months.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) also gives you the right to get your credit score from the national consumer reporting companies. Once per year you can get a copy for free. When you get your score, often you get information on how you can improve it.