Will I Lose My Credit History If I Change My Name?

Here's how to ensure your name change goes as smoothly as possible.

Thousands of people change their names each year, often as a result of marriage or divorce, and less frequently, just for fun. In fact, one man, armed with $50 and a written deed poll application, secured the moniker Bacon Double Cheeseburger in the United Kingdom last year.

Although Mr. Cheeseburger may be perfectly satisfied with his colorful designation, he and others can experience some bumps after a name change. And while you won’t “lose” your credit history if you change your name due to marriage, divorce or even just for fun, there can sometimes be confusion about your identity if your information isn’t being accurately reported.

In general, your new name is added to your credit reports after you notify your mortgage lender, credit card issuers and other businesses of the change. They report the change, be it a first or surname change, to the three main credit bureaus and your new name replaces the old, which then remains on your credit history similar to old addresses and employers.

How to Smooth Your Name Change Process

Keep in mind that changing your name isn’t an automatic process. It requires lots of paperwork and contacting the necessary businesses to ensure a successful shift. Personal participation is key.

The best way to ensure that your name change is reflected on your credit report is to contact government agencies and credit issuers who provide personal data and account information to the credit bureaus. These include:

  • The Social Security Administration: Applying for a new Social Security card is a good place to begin your name change because it can be used to help verify your identity as you move forward. While your Social Security number (SSN) won’t change, your name will be updated.
  • The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV): If your name change is the result of marriage or divorce, you may need an original or certified decree before a change is allowed (rules vary by state). Visit the DMV to update your license.
  • Bank & Credit Accounts: Contact your lenders and credit card issuers to order new checks, debit and credit cards, and be sure any business accounts are updated as well.
  • Your Employer: In addition to updating their own records, your employer needs your new name in order to pay Social Security, unemployment and other taxes on your behalf.
  • Medical Providers: Medical bills rarely appear on your credit report unless you fail to pay it, but it’s a good idea to provide your doctors and dentists with your new name.
  • Insurance Companies: Insurance coverage is essential to protecting your home, car, business and other valuables. Make sure your providers have current information.

When you’re finished, it’s also a good idea to contact each of the three credit reporting agencies (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) to alert them of your name change and ensure it is accurately reflected.

Credit reporting isn’t a perfect system, and while changing your name shouldn’t erase or negatively impact your credit history, it’s a good idea to check your reports and scores in the months that follow. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to order free copies of your TransUnion, Experian and Equifax reports. You can also view two of your credit scores for free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

Image: aldomurillo

The post Will I Lose My Credit History If I Change My Name? appeared first on Credit.com.

How Long Must I Have Credit Before I Get a Near-Perfect Credit Score?

age-of-credit-history

You pay your bills on time, you (barely) carry any debts, you keep the credit applications to a minimum (no churners here!) and you’ve got a nice mix of accounts going on your credit reports. Yet every time you check your credit, there’s one area that appears to be keeping you from that near-perfect record: Your credit history, per the little risk factors listed alongside your credit score, is just not long enough.

For someone just starting out in the world of credit, that may seem like a no-brainer. Credit history looks at the age of the information in your credit file (not your own age). So if you’ve only had your loans for a few years, why expect an A-plus performance? But for someone who has spent the better part of a decade as a dedicated credit goody two-shoes, it’s easy to wonder why you’re just not quite acing it.

The answer, as with many things credit-related, just depends.

What’s My Target?

Remember, there are lots of different credit scores out there, and while they all generally consider the same five factors when computing your credit — payment history, credit utilization, credit inquiries, mix of accounts and credit history — each may calculate those categories a bit differently.

Scoring systems “recognize how long a person has had a credit history and may calculate scores differently as a result,” Rod Griffin, director of education for the credit agency, Experian, said. “For example, the things that indicate risk for a person who has had a credit history for only five years are different than [they are for] a person that has used credit for 30 years. So, scores weigh the information in the credit report differently for each person.”

It’s important to note, too, that credit history considers not just the age of individual accounts but also the average age of your accounts, so if you have a few credit lines that are on the younger side, it could be affecting your overall performance.

Having said that, there are some parameters we can provide when talking about what constitutes a good credit history that lends itself to a good score. Per Barry Paperno, who blogs at SpeakingofCredit.com and worked at the major credit scoring model FICO for many years, an average credit age of 12 years and an oldest account of 30 years would put you among the FICO High Achievers (those with scores over 785).

According to Jeff Richardson, a spokesperson for VantageScore, another major credit scoring model, “based on some research we did a few years ago, those with Prime scores, on average, had a loan that is more than 15 years old.”

However, “some consumers have accounts that are substantially older than 30 years, and … the age of accounts is compared against consumers with similar age of accounts,” Richardson said. And, yes, those customers could theoretically be messing up the curve, depending on what model or algorithm is being used to compute your creditworthiness.

Maintain Your Good Habits

Of course, it’s important to not get too hung up on achieving a perfect score. First of all, believe it or not, you don’t really need one. Most credit-scoring models, including VantageScore and FICO, operate on a scale of 300 to 850, and anything over 750 will generally net you good terms on financing.

Moreover, you can hit that 750 mark without having credit for decades and decades. Credit history, after all, only accounts for 15% of most credit scores.

“That means 85% of the score is dependent on other factors,” Griffin said. “It is very possible for a person with a relatively short credit history to have credit scores as good as, or better than, a person who has used credit for 30 years or more.”

To build good credit in the long-term, just continue to make all your payments on time, keep your debt levels low, manage your inquiries and add a mix of credit accounts as your finances can handle them. And if credit history is bothering you and your score, “you may need to just be patient and allow that history to grow over time,” Griffin said. You can track your progress toward building good credit by viewing two of your credit scores, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

Image: monkeybusinessimages

The post How Long Must I Have Credit Before I Get a Near-Perfect Credit Score? appeared first on Credit.com.

4 Ways Your Credit Scores Can Empower You

credit-scores-can-empower-you

The members of the credit elite — consumers who reside at the top of the scoring ladder — are no strangers to the hard work having good credit requires. Maintaining good or excellent credit can help you qualify for the best financial offers. Here are four ways this can pay off and might leave you feeling financially empowered.

1. Credit Card Perks & Rewards

When you have good credit scores, you open up the doors to new credit opportunities. For example, you may now be eligible for some of the more premiere credit cards on the market that offer great rewards. (You can read more about reward credit cards here.) Before you apply for a new card, it’s a good idea to verify where your credit currently stands. You can see two of your credit scores for free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

2. Negotiation Power

As an attractive borrower, you can expect to wield greater negotiation power in your financial dealings. For example, an Experian analysis found that “85% of the rental applicant population is in one of the three lowest VantageScore credit ranges (501 to 799), compared with a national average of only 64%.” You may be able to use your excellent credit score to distinguish yourself from the competition and negotiate better terms and conditions in several situations.

3. Lower Insurance Premiums

Insurance is the business of risk, and the premium you pay is based on several factors, including age, city of residence and past behavior. Based on the latter, it’s no surprise that many providers look at your credit to set insurance rates (California, Hawaii and Massachusetts have laws prohibiting this practice). Consumers with excellent credit may been seen as a lower risk and may be rewarded with lower auto, homeowner or health insurance rates.

4. Prime Interest Rates

Borrowing money can be easier with high credit scores. A stellar ranking may qualify you for some of the best available mortgage rates, auto loans and revolving APR. Depending on the value and length of the loan, excellent credit could help save you thousands of dollars over time.

Image: marrio31

The post 4 Ways Your Credit Scores Can Empower You appeared first on Credit.com.

Santa’s Credit Score Is Probably Better Than Yours

Santa_credit_score

Credit scoring company FICO had a little holiday fun and made a credit profile for jolly old Saint Nick. Based on the credit info FICO plugged into one of its algorithms, Santa has a 757 FICO score, well above the U.S. average of 695, per a news release. And he has what’s considered an excellent FICO score, with a range of 300 to 850.

If you’re looking to improve your score, there are some things you can learn from the fabled toy deliverer. Santa’s extensive credit history — which goes back eons — probably played a big role in his good credit score. Generally, the longer you’ve been using credit, the better.

Santa also has a great mix of accounts, given that he not only has installment loans and revolving credit products, but a variety of both. In fact, he has credit cards, a mortgage, an auto loan (for a hybrid sleigh, of course) and a home equity line of credit (HELOC). The age of your credit history accounts for 15% of your FICO score, while your account mix makes up 10%.

But the man isn’t perfect. There’s an old late payment in his credit history — things got tight in the recession — and since payment history makes up 35% of a FICO score, it could be dragging him down. The good news is, late payments are only reported for seven years and their impact lessens as they age, so Santa’s credit score isn’t hurting too much from that payment.

The bigger issue might be his credit card use, as he maxed out his $50,000-limit credit card to help with toy production for the holidays. FICO didn’t share how much of his total available credit Santa uses, but experts recommend using less than 30% of your available credit, and some say it’s best to use less than 10%. The idea is to keep credit card balances as low as possible, relative to the card’s limits, so maxing out cards is a bad idea.

Old Saint Nick would be smart to track his credit scores to see how changes — like lowering his credit card balances and continuing to make on-time payments — can affect them. You can check your credit by pulling your credit reports for free each year on AnnualCreditReport.com and viewing your two credit scores for free every 30 days on Credit.com.

More on Credit Reports & Credit Scores:

Image: Comstock Images

The post Santa’s Credit Score Is Probably Better Than Yours appeared first on Credit.com.