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Responding to Your Frequently Asked Credit Questions

Written by Equifax Experts on April 15, 2013 in Credit  |   87 comments

We’ll be answering some of your most frequently asked credit questions on the blog. We hope this discussion will increase your understanding of how the credit reporting process works. Don’t forget to check out part one of this FAQ, which covered late payments and the…

credit score, credit reportWe’ll be answering some of your most frequently asked credit questions on the blog. We hope this discussion will increase your understanding of how the credit reporting process works. Don’t forget to check out part one of this FAQ, which covered late payments and the calculation of your credit score.

Q: Why does a lender see a different credit score than what’s on my Equifax credit report?

A: A lender may be seeing a different credit score than what you will find on your Equifax credit report because another credit score model is being used.

For example, Equifax calculates your Equifax Credit Score using information from all three nationwide credit reporting agencies. Other companies may calculate your credit score using different metrics. While some lenders use blended credit scores from the three credit reporting agencies, others apply industry-weighted credit scores.

Keep in mind that your credit score isn’t static and could change every day as credit grantors, collection agencies, and public records report data.

If your lender calculates a credit score that is very different from your Equifax Credit Score, consider showing your lender a recent copy of the credit score Equifax has reported. Then you can compare the inconsistencies and determine if any information is incorrect.

Q: Why is my credit score different among the three nationwide credit reporting agencies?

A: If you are pulling your credit report and credit score from each of the three credit reporting agencies and find that your credit scores aren’t exactly the same, it’s not a cause for alarm. There are multiple reasons why your credit score may differ.

If you access credit scores from all of the agencies at the same time, a credit score difference may be due to the credit file data at each of the agencies. Not all creditors report to all three agencies, so some credit lines might not appear on all three reports.

Your credit report and credit score can also change daily, depending on your credit activity level. This could be the result of a balance increase or decrease, a new inquiry, or a new credit line.

When comparing your credit report from the three agencies, make sure that the personal information on each is correct and that all of the listed accounts and balances belong to you. Any incorrect information could alter your score.

Q: How do I dispute an error in my credit report?

A: It’s a smart idea to periodically check on your credit report because any erroneous information could affect your credit score. Remember that you are entitled to one free credit report every year from each of the three credit reporting agencies through annualcreditreport.com. You can also request your credit score for a nominal fee when you access your credit report.

If you have been a victim of identity theft or if a creditor has mistakenly reported your account as delinquent, it could affect your credit score. If the incorrect information causes your credit score to drop, it could be difficult for you to get credit at a better rate.

If you find inaccurate information in your credit file, directly contact the credit reporting agency posting the error and file a free dispute. At Equifax, you can file your dispute by Internet, phone, or mail.

If you have spotted erroneous information in your credit report from one of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies, consider ordering your credit file from the other two in order to check for the same mistake. You can find both Experian and TransUnion online.

The credit reporting agencies are mandated to investigate all disputes within 35 to 45 days after you have submitted your complaint. At this time, the credit reporting agency will contact you with your outcome—by mail if you submitted by mail or through email updates if you selected that option.

The credit reporting agency can update the status of the disputed information—which could include telling you that the furnisher of the information confirmed that it was reporting correctly—or delete the item altogether. If the agency finds no mistake in your file, the information will remain, but you have the option of adding a statement of explanation.

When you correct an error with one credit reporting agency, the two other agencies should also receive the updated information. To make sure that your information is quickly corrected across agencies, though, you should dispute the error directly with each one.

The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.


  1. n coleman says:

    How do I get my credit score over 750

    • EFX Moderator, EM says:

      Great question. Here are ten strategies for improving your credit score. I hope this helps.

      • Elizabeth says:

        I am just starting the long climb back up the credit score ladder. I see that there are a number of accounts listed on my report where I am the Authorized User. Those accounts are not performing. Will it help my credit rating if I remove myself from those accounts?

        • Elizabeth says:

          My second question is about collection agency settlements. If Ia collection agency makes me an offer to settle at less than the full debt, and I pay them that amount and they tell me that the debt is paid in full, can I believe that? How will that affect my credit score/credit rating?

        • EFX Moderator, KB says:

          Elizabeth, good question. Unfortunately, it’s hard to say that closing a certain account will decrease your score by X amount of points. That’s because everyone’s credit is different, and everyone’s financial situation is different. Click here for information on how closing an account can affect your credit score.

          • Todd says:

            KB – You didn’t answer Elizabeth’s question. I have a similar situation whereby an old debt (7+ years) was recently sold (again) to a debt collection agency. In addition to getting a SIGNIFICANT score drop due to their Inquiry, I am certain to get additional reduction due to a “new” collection account.

            My question, just like Elizabeth, is simple. Does is make positive CREDIT sense to pay-off a collection agency?

          • EFX Moderator, KB says:

            Todd, in general it’s always better to pay off debt, even if it’s in collections. You can’t remove the collection for seven years, but creditors will usually report the debt as paid, and it is often viewed more positively.
            Here is a link with more detailed information on how long payments stay on your credit report: http://blog.equifax.com/credit/how-long-does-a-late-payment-stay-on-my-credit-report/

          • CreditPro says:

            Not true. Read the fair credit reporting act. A collection company MUST provide your SIGNED agreement with THEM and 9 times out of 10 they do not have the paperwork and have to remove it from your credit report. All collection agencies bully you because they play on the fact that most consumers don’t know the law.

  2. OJ says:

    If you pay a old collection account will this hurt your credit score if they don’t remove it and just mark it as Paid or Paid in Full or Settled in Full 0 Balance?

    • TJ says:

      I’d like to know that answer as well as a tough choice including that: WHICH do I pay first to get a quicker higher score – the old collection account, or my debt utilization ratio?

    • bbqdays says:

      OJ I like your question. I am wondering something similar. I paid off a large account, only to find a 5 cents balance left. I sent a check for 5 cents … somehow they zeroed out the balance, then credited me + 5 cents so my balance is negative 5 cents (they owe me 5 cents). This is ridiculous, they might never close my account. I guess I need to call them up and speak to somebody in person! sheesh

    • Barbara says:

      I have a credit score of 560. How do I clean up my credit and raise my credit score. How long will it take if I pay off all the negative balances of accounts in collection?

      • Marsha says:

        Rome wasn’t built in a day. I was there once and actually moved up. What you do is start by paying off the smaller account first. This will give you a feel good to get something done and will show on your credit report. ( make sure the account is reporting) do not get any further collection accounts! if someone says they are sending you or if you have some already you should dispute the filing with the company and say you never received a letter. You have 30 days after receipt of the letter to say yes this is nor nay it is not the bill. They should remove the finding if you never received a collection letter. Next start an emergency fund, no matter how much save something. Pay everybody you can on time. Don’t worry about rushing time will help change things. If you can’t pay call the company and talk with them.
        Best of luck I know you will do well.

  3. Dee says:

    Which affects credit score more: 1) a new chapter 13 or 2) a new foreclosure on a mortgage that’s been reporting as late for over three years?

  4. antonio says:

    how can I close a credit card account without negatively affecting my credit score?
    Thank you.

  5. Taylor says:

    I’ve been in school for over 15 years. Ive had to take out loans each year to help pay for my education. Due to the amount of education debt, I’m being denied for everything. I am paying my loans back each month on time. I would like to buy a home soon. What can I do?

  6. TDH says:

    Which of the following methods helps give me a higher credit score, pertaining to my credit cards? Paying off my credit cards before the end of each cycle or paying them down and only leaving a dollar balance? I know there are several factors when the score is calculated, but which of those methods helps my score as a consumor?

    • J.D. says:

      In this case, what you need to consider is called Debt-to-Credit ratio. It’s basically how much you’ve spent compared to how much your limit is. Most lenders when they look at your report and/or score prefer you to have it around 30 percent…..not too much or they’ll think you can’t pay off your debt and not too little because if you’re not using your credit, why should they offer you any?

  7. OSS says:

    How long does a bankruptcy stay on your credit report and after it is removed can a lender still pull it up even if it no longer shows on your report?

    • EFX Moderator, EM says:

      OSS, great question. A bankruptcy can stay on your credit report for 7 to 10 years, depending on the type of bankruptcy. Click here to read more about bankruptcies and credit reports. Thanks for posting.

  8. Henry says:

    I applied for a mortgage and EQUIFAX provided a DIFFERENT score to the Lender than the EQUIFAX credit score of 787 I received on-line. The Equifax Mortgage Credit score was substantially lower than my on-line EQUIFAX score. I know this to be true because the lender provided me a copy of the Report with the Equifax Mortgage Score.

    1) Why does Equifax give the consumer a different score credit than it gives lenders for mortgages?

    2)How can I find out my EQUIFAX MORTGAGE score directly from EQUIFAX? I would prefer to know what my score is and what I am facing before a lender tells me.

    • Henry says:

      Follow-up questions: My Equifax reports that I have not had a missed or late mortgage payment in the 81 months shown in the report.

      3)Why is there such a negative disparity in Mortgage scores from the on-line scores?

      4)What factors are considered differently?

    • Michelle says:

      Sadly enough, my Husband and I just went thru the same situation. Equifax does not explain to you that what they show YOU is NOT a FICO score. The FICO score is what the lenders look at. To get your FICO score, you must pay an additional amount to see what the lenders are looking at.

    • EFX Moderator, EM says:

      Henry, the lender may be using a different scoring model. Click here to read more about why your Equifax score may be different from the score your lender calculated. I hope this helps.

  9. Debra says:

    We have two Mastercards which we pay off every month. We want to close one to open another that has no black out dates. Does closing a credit card hurt your credit? We have a very good credit score.

  10. Suzanne says:

    If I change banks would that affect my credit score? If I include changing my mortgage loan in that change would THAT change my credit score?

    • EFX Moderator, EM says:

      Suzanne, great questions. It’s hard to know how these actions could affect your credit score since your score is based on many factors in your credit report. Opening a new checking or savings account could add a credit inquiry to your credit report. Refinancing your mortgage could also add a new credit inquiry, as well as close your old mortgage account and open a new account, changing your account history length.

      Be sure to consider your overall financial situation before making any change to your accounts.

      I hope this helps and thanks for posting.

  11. Mary says:

    I learned that if you have 5 or more credit inquiries made about you, that lowers your score as well. Inquiries remain on your report for up to 3 years. Some inquiries on my account I have been trying to remove, to no avail. For two inquiries I was just shopping for a car loan and did not accept the credit – I wrote to the companies to remove their inquiry but they would not do so. For one inquiry, I was denied credit because Experian credit reporting agency stated that I am “deceased” – imagine that! I just wrote to the creditor to remove their inquiry as I do not want their credit anyway, but I’m sure they probably won’t. This is so unfair to the consumer! What can be done about this?

    • EFX Moderator, EM says:

      Mary, I’m sorry to hear about these frustrations. It sounds like you might want to contact the credit reporting agency since you are very much alive. It’s good to remove inaccurate information on your credit report since it can affect your credit score. As for the credit inquiries, they can be removed if they are fraudulent or inaccurate. If you think these credit inquiries are reported in error, you can file a dispute. I hope this helps, and thanks for posting.

  12. Grama R says:

    How does a credit inquiry effect your score, and if you decide to not purchase after all will this negatively impact my scores?

  13. BB says:

    I was wondering how long a closed negative mortgage account will be on my report? I had a home included in a bankruptcy and then for some reason 4 years later another lender started reporting that they were collecting a payment on this closed/foreclosed loan. We never made a payment to the company, and it now currently shows up as closed, but they made the closed date 10/12, not back in 2009 like the original loan shows. Does that mean that newer erroneous account will remain longer than the original correct closed loan?

  14. Rhonda Eldred says:

    How often is my credit rating updated? It is showing 2 Feb 13. I have closed 2 accounts since then. I’d like to get it updated as soon as possible.

    • EFX Moderator, EM says:

      Rhonda, great question. Your credit file is updated as lenders report new information. Click here to learn more about how information is updated on your credit file. Thanks for posting!

  15. CC says:

    If you have unpaid credit card debt that has been paid off and referred to a 3rd party collector, is it better to try and pay the full balance or accept the settlement offer or does it really matter one way or the other?

    • J.D. says:

      It depends on what you mean. As far as the credit score goes, it doesn’t matter if you take a settlement or not because the balance will still be zero. But if you take a settlement, some creditors may look at the report and consider that a bad thing.

  16. pzcm says:

    I would like to know if a company has sold or traded off an account and you have settled it with another company. How do you get the original company moved off your credit report?

  17. Marilyn and John H. says:

    I left my purse in a shopping cart at the store and it is gone. We have locked our credit on Equifax, closed the credit card accounts, and replaced the debit card number. Any other suggestions?

  18. Tony says:

    what happens to my credit score when dept of education and sallie mae are removed from my credit bureau? It would remove 58,000 in installment loans

  19. Heather says:

    It says the bulk of your credit score is based on paying your payments on time, one of the beauraus lists me as having a “good” history of doing so, the other two only say fair. I pay all of my bills – student loans, car payment, and credit card payments on time and full every month. I have only ever had a few things go to collections (all under $100), all of which were paid off right away and immediately removed. There is one thing that is on my record right now that says it is from 2009, but I have no clue what it is and every time I call the company an automated service picks up and says they are closed and that the voicemail box is full, and to cell back during normal business hours. But doesn’t sway what those normal business hours are.
    It also doesn’t say on my credit report what this was originally for, or for how much money. I am very skeptical about it.
    Should I dispute that claim?

    So, how do I improve that, if I am already paying everything on time?

    And when it says “types of accounts”, which they all rate me poor on, what does that even mean? Is it better to have fewer types of accounts, or a wide variety of accounts? Are certain accounts weighed more positively than others?

    And how long does it take for your “length of credit history” to get higher than poor? Is everyone in their twenties stuck with a poor rating there?

    • EFX Moderator, EM says:

      Heather, it sounds like you might want to consider disputing that credit item. If you don’t remember it, it might be identity fraud.

      And you’re right that it’s hard to have a long credit history when you’re first starting out. Building a solid credit report does take time. It sounds like you’re on the right track to establishing great credit in the future though. Here’s more information on improving your credit score. I hope this helps.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Another credit agency removed some neg items from my credit report due to a dispute I placed with them. How long does it take Equifax to do the same?

  21. Tim says:

    What’s the best way to up my score about 30 points?

  22. Lora P. says:

    if i settle an old account for less than the full amount how will this effect my credit score?

  23. Lora P. says:

    also, if i own my own home does that help or hinder my credit score? my Mother owned my house but she died 4 months ago and the house went to me. so how do i change this in my status on Equifax and again, will it help or hinder my credit score?

  24. Ktrues says:

    Why does the score max keep going up? Looks like someone or something is setting us up to fail. It will be at 1000 before we all know it and our scores will be too low to buy a postage stamp from the Post Office. Sad! 🙁

  25. rodney peak says:

    If I have proof of GOOD CREDIT that is NOT on my equifax report BUT IS ON MY TRANS UNION and/or Experian reports—HOW if any at all–do I enforce my rights to have Equifax correct (or in these cases—ADD or or at least fill in some of the not-reported POSITIVE items just as does when Equifax is reported a negative item.
    Can I compel Equifax (or any CRA for that matter)to COMPLETELY and ACCURATELY FILL IN MY INFORMATION?

  26. HBG says:

    After paying down balances on credit cards, how long does it take to reflect on credit report, as it rtelates to credit score?

    • EFX Moderator, KB says:

      Good question. Your credit report contains information from the companies that have granted you credit in the past and those with whom you have open accounts. It’s up to your creditors to update the information on your credit report. Click here to find out more on how your information is updated on your credit report.

  27. Lorac C. says:

    I have 4 revolving accounts but my report is showing 15. These accounts are closed and are shown that they are closed in the report. How can I get this number changed on your report.

  28. Dee P says:

    i just had some items removed from credit report that were not mine. I am a authorized user on my parents accounts, but my credit was not used for these accounts. I disputed it, and they were removed. It was very quick and easy process, however when will i see my credit score reflect their removal?

  29. CAD says:

    I have two issues. Based on these two issues, I feel ripped off of the nearly $40.00 I spent on my product.

    1. The very same day I ordered my Credit Report from Equifax.com I applied for a credit card. Equifax.com reported my credit score as 731. The lender reported my credit score as 679 using Equifax. I do not understand the disparity.

    2. I thought when I ordered this product I was supposed to get all three credit reports (which I did) and all three credit scores (which I did not). I would like all three credit scores.

    • EFX Moderator, KB says:

      CAD, we would like to help address your matter. You can send your matter/inquiry, along with your legal name, city/state, & email address used for your Equifax registration, to equifaxsupport@facebook.com. A Customer Support agent will respond to you directly.

  30. Bryan C says:

    How do I record pur new home address so it is published on my credit report?

  31. Alan M Boomski says:

    If I have too many credit cards, is closing some of them going to help my credit score.

    • EFX Moderator, KB says:

      Alan, great question. When you’re thinking about closing an account, you want to evaluate your credit situation and the types of accounts you have open to make the least, or most positive, impact on your credit score. Click here for more information on how closing an account may affect your credit score.

  32. Anonymous says:

    how can bad credit be reported on accounts with no activity for 10 years? how long can this be held against me. how can a collection agent report a later date from last activity? how do I get these old things off my report?

  33. SS says:

    My debt to credit ratio is showing up as 114% for installments ($109,573) of which $96,004 are student loans. All in good standing and never late. I don’t understand the debt to credit ratio. My annual salary is $116,800. Please advise.

  34. Michael B says:

    I recently filed a dispute for 3 items on my credit with Equifax, (3 days ago). My credit dropped over 40 points, is this normal and will it go back up after the dispute?

    • EFX Moderator, KB says:

      Michael, thanks for the question. Because credit scores are so unique, it’s hard to determine why and what makes them fluctuate. There’s always room for improving your creditworthiness by understanding your credit score, even if yours is good to begin with. Click here for information on how to become a better borrower.

  35. SB says:

    I just checked my credit scores for the rest time by myself and I am very displeased with the outcome. In 2011, I paid off 80% of my credit (the ones that were pending for a few years and exceeded over $1000 each). As of today, my credit score is at 526. How long does it take for your credit score to increase? What else can I do to make it increase faster? It says these transactions will be on my credit until approx. 2015. Also, I am currently in college and have a $19,000 loan that is on my credit as well. It says that I am not scheduled to pay that until 2018. Is that effecting my credit as well? I do have an account open that is still in good standing, that will also get paid off within a few weeks (no late payments).

  36. Anonymous says:

    I have two questions. First, I have an excellent record of paying on time over 20 years, but have considerable credit card debt that I am paying off. I was offered increases in my limit from two credit card companies (altho I would prefer that they just lower my rate). Is it good to accept these in order to increase my ratio, or does it look like I have too much available credit? And do these increase offers count as “inquiries”?

    Second, my credit reports show my addresses as including all of my family members, (altho I am living in my same house 30 years) even kids who are no longer on my accounts, and my husband’s business addresses. Does this matter to me personally? Is it worth trying to clean that up on the reports?

    • EFX Moderator, KB says:

      Good questions. First, knowing how and where to take control of your credit accounts is important. Click here for information on the most important credit card changes.

  37. Anonymous says:

    I am a recent college graduate (3 months ago) and am trying to work on building up my credit score. Currently, it is in the average range, but I will have my credit card (used throughout the college years) paid off in the next two months. After it is paid off I will be putting monthly bills on the card, but paying them off in full before each monthly statement. However, I have approximately 40k in loans that I have not begun making payments on because I am still in the “grace period”. My questions is, could this have a negative effect on my credit score? The reason I ask is because when I last had my credit score checked (about 3 years ago) I was in the upper 700s, but I also had no school loans at the time. I do not currently have a mortgage or car payment because I live in an apartment and my car is paid off. Any additional advice you could give me to improve my credit score would be appreciated.

  38. Steven says:

    I just had a collection removed from my account I had been working on to have removed for over a year where the hospital coded it wrong and thus EMS coded it wrong. I should have just paid it but they sent 30.00 to collections. I paid it over a year ago but they admitted it was a mistake on their part and FINALLY Friday it came off my equifax the only place it was. There had been no impact to my credit whatever. My other credit scores are 50-75 points higher in the high 700 and equifax would not move off 715 me thinking it was the collection. Why did it not bump my equifax up 25 if not 50 points ?

    • EFX Moderator, KB says:

      Steven, good question. Several factors are used to calculate your credit score, and it is difficult to pinpoint exactly where the difference is coming from. Here is more information on why your credit scores may be different.

  39. Anonymous says:

    I paid off an installment loan last month and my credit score dropped 14 points. ???

  40. michelle says:

    I have a department store credit card (Barney’s) that I have had for years and paid on time etc. (i think there is only a $40 balance on it at the moment). However, the company just changed the financial institution through whom they do their credit cards (to Comenity Bank). On my credit report it looks as if I opened a new account (it says “new credit acct: comenity bank” or whatever), and it was flagged this way in my credit alerts. Since this was not my choice, I don’t want it to appear that I got yet another credit card and I’m wondering if this will negatively affect the way my credit status is viewed.

  41. D.J.S says:

    My credit score has not changed in over 4 months, even though I have paid accounts off and increased my credit limits. Is there a reason for the stagnation. I’m thinking about possibly filing a complaint w/BBB.

  42. Brook CW says:

    I paid cash for a house and I need to get it posted on my credit, any ideas how I do it??

  43. Helene says:

    I have FICO which shows my EQUIFAX, credit score, and every month the high lighted portion always states ” Pay down $10 of your total revolving/open account balances of $250 every month for 24 months.” I do not have an open balance of $250. But when I order the other 2 credit reports from them, this message goes away. Why are they making this statement on my report. It seems like they are trying to make some extra money off me. I am thinking about canceling FICO.

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