Your credit score and the information on your credit report are important in determining whether you’ll be able to get a mortgage, credit card, auto loan or other credit.  It also determines the interest rate you pay for such credit.

Graphic for Credit Report and Scores Blog Post
(Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Luis Loza Gutierrez)

What is a credit report?

Your credit report is a statement or record that has information about your credit activity and your current situation with any and all lenders/creditors you are paying.  This will include your payment history and the status of your account.

What is a credit score?

Your score is determined by the information on your report.  Credit agencies use things like your credit card use, payment, history, derogatory marks, the age of credit, the total number of accounts you have, and the number of hard inquiries you have to calculate your score.

What do all of those categories mean?

  • Credit Card Use: How much credit you are using compared to your total limits.
  • Payment History: Percentage of payments you have made on time (on or before the due date).
  • Derogatory Marks: Collections, tax liens, bankruptcies, or civil judgments on your report.
  • Credit Age: Average age of your open accounts.
  • Total accounts: Total open and closed accounts.
  • Hard Inquiries: The number of inquiries by a creditor seeking to access your credit report.

Where do you stand?

First things first, you need a copy of your credit report.  You can get a copy from each of the three major credit bureaus once a year, for free at www.annualcreditreport.com.

What if there are errors on your report?

Errors on your credit report can reduce your score.  This could mean a higher interest rate on credit and less money in your pocket.  It is important to fix any errors before applying for a loan.

How do you get a good credit score?

  1. Pay your credit on time, every time;
  2. Don’t max out your cards – don’t get too close to your credit limit;
  3. A long credit history will help your score;
  4. Only apply for credit you need; and
  5. Review your credit reports annually and dispute false information.

Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves the millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and also 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and well‐being; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, such as those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, visit our website at www.lonestarlegal.org.  To apply for assistance with Lone Star Legal Aid, call 1- (800) 733-8394.