Credit Report. Credit Score. What's the difference?!

There's so much in the news about credit. Reports? Scores? But what is a "good" credit score? What's the difference between a credit score and a credit report? In this article, we will help you understand what you need to know about your credit and steps to take to make your credit better.

1. What is a credit report?
Your credit activities are recorded on a credit report. The report lists any credit card accounts or loans you may have, the balances and how regularly you make your payments. It also shows if any action has been taken against you because of unpaid bills. Any time you purchase anything using credit, it goes on your report and affects your credit score. If you have many late payments, or default on a loan, that will damage your credit score.

2. What is a credit score?
A credit score is a three-digit number based on your credit report that lenders, like North Country Savings Bank, use to determine the risk of loaning to you. The credit score is a number generated by a mathematical formula. This formula analyzes information in your credit report to derive your credit score - a number ranging from 300 to 850. In general, scores above 700 represent good credit.

3. How do you know what is on your report?
You can order a free credit report from Equifax, TransUnion and Experian once a year through a site called annualcreditreport.com. This will show you what your report says. It will list all of the credit accounts you have had, former addresses, and any basic information that affects your credit standing. There is a fee to see your actual credit score, but the report will show you all you need to know. Creditors do not have to report to all three credit bureaus, so it is also a good idea to look at all three reports. One report could be better than another, leaving you vulnerable to a poor credit rating.

4. What are the keys to good credit?
Pay your bills on time, keep low balances on your credit cards, do not open a lot of new accounts at once and pay off debt as opposed to transferring between credit cards. All these tactics will help you keep a good credit score.

5. How can you repair your credit report?
Check the report and look for anything that is inaccurate. Frequently, credit reports have errors on them. Unfortunately, it is your job to make the credit agency fix your report. Write a letter to Equifax, TransUnion, or Experian (which ever has the mistake on your report); the credit bureau must investigate any relevant dispute within 30 days of receiving your claim. Any item that is not verified as accurate by a creditor is removed.

Remember to keep a record of what you have done; phone calls, letters, etc. You may need them.

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