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In part 1, we covered the basics about credit scoring – what it is and how it is calculated. It’s time to address the critical question …
What happens if you are denied credit or don’t get the terms you want?
The Equal Credit Opportunity Act requires that the creditor give you a notice either with the specific reasons your application was rejected, or stating that you have the right to learn the reasons if you ask within 60 days.
NOTE: Indefinite and vague reasons for denial are illegal, so ask the creditor to be specific.
If you were denied credit because you are too near you credit limits on your charge cards, or you have too many credit card accounts, you may want to reapply after paying down your balances or closing some accounts. Credit scoring systems consider updated information and change over time.
You also can be denied credit because of information from a credit report. If so, the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires the creditor to give you the name, address and phone number of the credit reporting agency that supplied the information. You should contact that agency to find out what your report contains.
NOTE: This information is free if you request it within 60 days of being turned down for credit. The credit reporting agency can tell you what’s in your report, but only the creditor can tell you why your application was denied.
If you’ve been denied credit, or didn’t get the rate or credit terms you want, ask the creditor if a credit scoring system was used. Be sure to ask what characteristics or factors were used in that system, and the best ways to improve you application.
If you get credit, ask the creditor whether you are getting the best rate and terms available and, if not, why. If you are not offered the best rate available because of inaccuracies in your credit report, be sure to dispute the inaccurate information in your credit report.
Under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, a credit scoring system may not use certain characteristics like: Race, Sex, Marital status, National origin, or Religion. However, creditors are allowed to use age in properly designed scoring systems. But any scoring system that includes age must give equal treatment to elderly applicants.
What can I do to improve my score?
Credit scoring models are complex and often vary among creditors, and for different types of credit. If one factor changes, your score may change. But improvement generally depends on how that factor relates to other factors considered by the model.
NOTE: Only the creditor can explain what might improve your score under the particular model used to evaluate your credit application.
Nevertheless, scoring models generally evaluate the following types of information in your credit report:
- Have you paid your bills on time? Payment history is a significant factor. It is likely that your score will be affected negatively if you have paid bills late, had an account referred to collections, or declared bankruptcy, if that history is reflected on your credit report.
- What is your outstanding debt? Many scoring models evaluate the amount of debt you have compared to your credit limits. If the amount you owe is close to your credit limit, that is likely to have a negative effect on your score.
- How long is your credit history? Generally, models consider the length of your credit track record. An insufficient credit history may have an effect on your score, but that can be offset by other factors, such as timely payment and low balances.
- Have you applied for new credit recently? Many scoring models look at inquiries” on your credit report when you apply for credit. If you have applied for too many new accounts recently, that may negatively affect your score. However, not all inquiries are counted. Inquiries by creditors who are monitoring your account or looking at credit reports to make “prescreened” credit offers are not counted.
- How many and what type of credit accounts do you have? Although it is generally good to have established credit accounts, too many credit card accounts may have a negative effect on your score. In addition, many models consider the type of credit accounts you have. For example, under some scoring models, loans form finance companies may negatively affect your credit score.
Scoring models may be based on more than just information in your credit report. For example, the model may consider information from your credit application as well: your job or occupation, length of employment, or whether you own a home.
Bottom Line: To improve you credit score under most models, concentrate on paying your bills on time, paying down outstanding balances, and not taking on new debts. It’s likely to take some time to improve your score significantly.