Credit Reports, Credit Scores,
Credit Reporting - All 3 Bureaus

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Student Credit Center

I. Overview

Hello, students, and welcome to the's Student Credit Center

As an applicant for credit, you are embarking on an exciting chapter of life.  With credit, you will have the freedom to purchase a huge variety of items, from a tee shirt at the bookstore to larger objects, like a state-of-the-art computer.  On the same note, companies and institutions are interested in having you apply for credit with them; the more you and others purchase their products, the better their sales look and the stronger their businesses become. 

One important aspect that goes hand-in-hand with the freedom to purchase items on credit is the responsibility for budgeting your money and paying your credit card bills on time.  Maintaining your good credit by paying your credit bills on time is essential to a strong credit record, and that is exactly what you want to create. 

Your credit information is made available to creditors when you apply for insurance, a loan, and on some occasions, when you apply for employment.

Definition:  Credit Bureaus

There are 3 national credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and Transunion. The agencies collect your credit history from the companies that have credit relationships with you. Each of the 3 national credit agencies will normally report your credit slighly differently from the other because they each collect data from different companies.  If you have credit with Department Store A, for instance, that credit may be reported with Equifax, but not with Experian, or it may be reported to all three.  If you are buying a car on payments, that credit may be reported to one of the agencies, all three, or not at all.  Your creditors chose which agency or agencies to report to. Not all creditors report to a credit bureau.

That's why it is important for an overall view of your credit, to get a credit report from all three. You can get the credit reports individually, or you may get all 3 in one merged credit report. These are also known as a 3-in-1 or 3-Bureau merged credit reports.

II. Applying for Credit

Establish a consistent work history.  Creditors consider your work history and income before they extend credit, so start applying after you have had a job for at least 6 months.

Start small by applying for gas or department store credit cards.  These are easier to qualify for than major credit cards.  Just make sure your credit information (payment history) will be reported to the national credit reporting agencies.  (There is no point applying for and paying credit bills if there is no record of it.)

Try applying for a secured credit card at your bank.  This type of card is easier to obtain than a major credit card because a secured card operates more like a debit card.  You deposit your money into a savings account for security, and the funds from your purchases are subtracted from the money the bank already has from you.  (Please note:  the required deposit amount and APR vary by credit card, so do your research before you apply.)

Take out a small loan to establish credit history.  Timely payments on a small loan reflect very well on your credit report.  If you do not qualify for a loan by yourself, consider asking a close friend or relative with established credit to co-sign the loan.  Be careful!  If you do get a co-signer, it is even more important for you to keep your payments current, because the loan history will also appear on your co-signer’s credit report.

When you do obtain credit, always pay your bills on time and keep your balances to a minimum.  These simple steps will ensure you have and maintain a strong credit score.

Finally, check your credit report twice a year once you have established credit.  This is to make sure the national credit bureaus are reporting your credit data accurately and to protect yourself against fraudulent activity.  If you do find incorrect entries on your report, dispute them immediately.  Don’t let your good credit suffer unnecessarily.

Definition:  APR  Annual Percentage Rate. The yearly cost of a loan, including interest, insurance, and the origination fee [points], expressed as a percentage. Often applied to credit cards, mortgages, and automobile financing.

III. Maintaining Your Good Credit

Good credit maintenance means always paying your bills on time for the amount required.

Be careful!  Any time you fail to make a payment on time to your creditor, that late payment may be reported to the credit bureaus.

  • Failure to make a payment on your credit card within 30 days of the payment due date may result in a “30-day late payment.”  Some lenders may not offer you their best interest rate if the “30-day late payment” appears on your report.
  • Your credit report will then show that you failed to make the payment.
  • If your payment is skipped in the next 30 day period, a “60-day late payment” will be registered and will appear on your report.  Many times, creditors may not extend credit when a “60-day late payment” appears on your report.
  • After a payment is registered as 90 days late, your account may be forwarded to a collection agency.

When potential creditors review your applications, they may take the following under consideration:

  • Current debt
  • Recent applications for other credit
  • Kinds of credit applied for
  • Late payments

Your credit report may list all your derogatory credit reported by your creditors for the last 7 years. So stay current with your bills!