Minimize Rejection: Check if You’re Pre-qualified for a Credit Card

Check if You're Pre-qualified for a Credit Card

Updated August 16, 2017

Are you avoiding a credit card application  because you’re afraid of being rejected? Want to see if you can be approved for a credit card without having an inquiry hit your credit score?

We may be able to help. Some large banks give you the chance to see if you are pre-qualified for cards before you officially apply. You give a bit of personal information (name, address, typically the last 4 digits of your social security), and they will tell you if you are pre-qualified. There is no harm to your credit score when using this service. This is the best way to see if you can get a credit card without hurting your score.

What does pre-qualified mean?

Pre-qualification typically utilizes a soft credit inquiry with a credit bureau (Experian, Equifax, TransUnion). A soft inquiry does not appear on your credit report, and will not harm your credit score.

Banks also create pre-qualified lists by buying marketing lists every month from a credit bureau. They buy the names of people who would meet their credit criteria and keep that list. When you see if you are pre-qualified, the bank is just checking to see if you are on their list.

A soft inquiry provides the bank with some basic credit information, including your score. Based upon the information in the credit bureau, the bank determines whether or not you have been pre-qualified for a credit card.

If you are not pre-qualified, that does not mean you will be rejected. When they pull a full credit report or get more information, you may still be approved. But, even if you are pre-qualified, you can still be rejected. So, why would you be rejected?

  • When you complete a formal credit card application, you provide additional personal information, including your employment and salary. If you are unemployed, or if your salary is too low relative to your debt – you could be rejected. There are other policy reasons that can be applied as well.
  • When a full credit bureau report is pulled, the bank gets more data. Some of that incremental data may result in a rejection.
  • Timing: your information may have changed. The bank may have pre-qualified you a week ago, but since then you have missed a payment. Final decisions are always made using the most up-to-date information.

Even with these caveats, checking to see if you are pre-qualified is a great way to shop for a credit card without hurting your score.

Where can I see if I have been pre-qualified?

Most (but not all) banks have pre-qualification tools. In addition, some websites (like have tools that let you check across multiple banks at once. Here is a current list of tools that are functioning:

CreditCards – CardMatch is a very good tool developed by that can match you to offers from multiple credit card companies without impacting your credit score. This is a good first stop.

Bank of America

Capital One



Credit One  – This company targets people with less than perfect credit.


U.S. Bank

Below are credit card issuers that do not always have the pre-qualification tool live:

American Express – We have reports that this does not work for everyone. To find the pre-qualification page, click on “CARDS” in the menu bar. Then click on “View All Personal Charge & Credit Cards.” At the bottom of the page you will find a section called “Do More with American Express” – and you can click on “Pre-Qualified Credit Card Offers.”

Barclaycard – unfortunately Barclaycard has taken down their pre-qualification tool. We will keep looking to see if it comes back.

Consider A Personal Loan (No Hard Inquiry and Lower Rates)

If you need to borrow money, you may also want to consider a personal loan. A number of internet-only personal loan companies allow you to see if you are approved (including your interest rate and loan amount) without a hard inquiry on your credit report. Instead, they do a soft pull, which has no impact on your credit score. Personal loans also tend to have much lower interest rates than credit cards. If you need to borrow money, personal loans are usually a better option.

We recommend starting your personal loan shopping experience at LendingTree. With one quick application, dozens of lenders will compete for your business. LendingTree uses a soft credit pull, and within minutes you will be able to see how much you qualify for – and the interest rate – without any harm to your credit score. (Note: MagnifyMoney is owned by LendingTree)

Not pre-qualified but still want to apply?

We still believe that people are too afraid of the impact of credit inquiries on their score. One inquiry will only take 5-10 points off your score.

If you pay your bills on time, do not have a ton of debt (less than $20,000) and want to apply for a new credit card, an inquiry should not scare you. The only way to know for certain if you can get approved is to do a full application.

How We Can Help

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How to Build Credit Without Spending a Ton of Money

Building credit doesn't have to be expensive.

The journey to building credit can be long and difficult, but it doesn’t need to be expensive. A good credit score isn’t about how much money you have but rather how well you manage it. A poor man could have the same credit score as a billionaire — all it takes is a little work. Learn how to build credit without spending a ton of money with these tips.

Stay Active

Credit scores can only be created when there’s credit activity to report. When you’re on a budget, it can be tempting to avoid charging anything, but doing so won’t help you build credit. Keeping credit cards active doesn’t have to be costly.

Charge a Little

With credit, it’s not about how much is spent or what it’s spent on, it’s about usage. There has to be enough activity generate a score. Whether you charge your morning coffee or a wild night in Las Vegas, you’ll keep your credit issuer happy if you pay it off and monitor how much credit you have available.

If you can only afford to pay off a credit card charge of up to $30 per month, charge that amount and pay it off. Barry Paperno, a credit card expert who writes for Speaking of Credit, suggests using some credit cards for regular monthly fees, like a Netflix or newspaper subscription. This ensures cards stay active and doesn’t require much thought. Plus, you can keep these cards tucked away at home instead of in your wallet.

Become an Authorized User 

The key is finding someone trustworthy who has great credit. Being an authorized user on someone’s card can be a great credit building option. The process to be added as an authorized user is fairly easy and has no application or requirements. (Learn more by reading everything you need to know about authorized users.)

Once someone becomes an authorized user, the card is added to their credit report. If you become an authorized user on an older card, you’ll earn additional points for the length of time the card has been open, an important credit scoring factor. You also receive credit for on time payments. The only potential issue with this is if the primary cardholder starts missing payments or cultivating debt, it impacts the authorized user’s credit score, too. This method is affordable and effective, but can be slow going since some score models don’t give full credit to authorized users, Paperno said.

Try a Secure Card

Applying for a secure card is a great option for those who have poor or nonexistent credit. Secure cards require users to put down a deposit, say $300, which creates a $300 credit limit on that card. The card acts like any other and is reported to the credit bureaus as such, but your spending can’t exceed the amount of the deposit. The card can be paid off as much as you’d like throughout the month, making it a great way to limit spending while showing the credit bureaus your ability to manage credit.

The great thing about secure cards is you’re the primary user, so the credit benefits earned are even greater than being an authorized user.

Report On-Time Payments

While it doesn’t always help your credit to make on time payments for rent, utilities, etc, in some cases it can. “Keep in mind credit scores can only consider what’s on your credit report,” says Paperno. “Your landlord or utilities company has to report it to credit bureau and credit scorers must include it.”

Unless on time payments are being reported, they won’t necessarily help you build credit. Ask your landlord and service providers if they report to credit bureaus. Or, pay rent online to help build credit history or uses services like Renttrack or Rental Kharma.

Set up Automatic Payments

Automatic payments can help ensure on-time payments. This is handy for those who forget to pay bills or travel often. On-time payments help strengthen your payment history, which plays a large role in a good credit score.

Beware, if there’s not enough money in your account for payments. An unpaid balance can be reported to the credit bureaus. Generally, credit bureau information is updated every 30 days so if your payment is only a few days late, you’ll be charged late payment fees but your credit won’t be hurt. Still, it’s best not to risk it.

Keep Accounts Open

If you’ve already got cards open, avoid closing them. Credit history is a major factor in calculating credit scores, so keeping your oldest cards open and active can have major perks. So, keep that card from college, even if it’s only used to charge a monthly Netflix subscription.

Get a Credit Builder Loan

A credit builder loan, a type of installment loan, can be a simple way to build credit. Try for a credit builder loan that reports to all three national credit reporting agencies, so on-time loan payments build up your credit in reports for all three companies. Don’t bite off more than you can chew — late payments or a defaulted loan can cause your credit score to take a huge hit.

You can take out a personal loan for something smaller than a car, like a new laptop or mattress. Take one on out on something you were planning to buy anyway, to avoid spending for the sole purpose of building credit.

Monitor Utilization

Everyone knows paying on time is essential but also so is utilization, the percent of available credit you’ve used. Paperno advises keeping utilization to less than 10% of your credit limit each month. This shows you’re reasonably and responsibly using your credit within your means.

Increase Credit Limit but Not Spending

If you’ve got a decent credit history, you can probably manage to have your credit limit increased. Once your credit limit is increased, keep your spending habits the same. This can help you lower your credit utilization, making your credit even stronger.

Diversify Wisely & Carefully

Diversifying your credit with different types of loans, cards and accounts can help you build credit, but only if you have the means to pay them off. Opening accounts and taking out loans you can’t afford will only put you in the red. Before taking out loans or apply for new cards, ensure you qualify. You can check two of your credit scores for free with

Opening new accounts and credit cards can seem like an easy way to increase the credit mix portion of your score, but proceed with caution. Opening a new card impacts the length of time your accounts have been open, a major factor in calculating your credit score. Since this number is the average of the length of time all of your accounts have been open, adding a new account can bring down your total.

As you diversify, monitor credit utilization for each individual card. If utilization is too high on one card, it can cause your entire credit score to drop. Utilization makes up 30% of your FICO credit score while different types of credit make up only 10%.

Image: Ti_ser

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The new Discover it Secured Card wins: No fee, Free FICO and up to 2% cash back

Discover it Secured Credit Card Review

Updated August 1, 2017

Discover has just launched a new product, the Discover it® Secured Card – No Annual Fee . Secured credit cards are an excellent way to build your credit with responsible use. With this product launch, Discover has created one of the best secured cards on the market. You do need to make a security deposit of $200 or more to establish your credit line (up to the amount that Discover can approve). If you are unable to afford the $200 deposit, you should consider the Capital One Secured MasterCard, which only requires a $49 deposit. But if you can afford the $200 deposit, this new card is clearly one of the best no fee secured credit cards available.

Learn More

Key Product Features

Here are the key product features:

No annual fee: There is no annual fee on this card. You do need to make a security deposit of at least $200. If you want a bigger limit, you will have to make a bigger deposit.

Automatic monthly reviews starting at 8 months: After just eight months, Discover will start monthly automatic reviews of your account to see if you can be transitioned to an account with no security deposit. With an 8-month review, Discover has one of the best upgrade policies in the market.

Earn cash back: Most secured credit cards do not offer any rewards. With Discover it, you have the opportunity to earn cash back while earning rewards. You can earn 2% at restaurants and gas stations (on up to $1,000 of combined purchases each quarter). Plus, get 1% cash back on all your other purchases. Earning cash back is not the primary reason to select a secured credit card, but it is a nice option to have available.

Free FICO Credit Score: Discover will provide you with a copy of your official FICO credit score. If you use a secured credit card properly, you should expect to see your score increase over time. And by providing your FICO score for free, you will be able to watch your improvement.

Monitor Your Social Security Number: Discover will monitor your Social Security Number and alert you if they find your Social Security Number on any of thousands of risky websites. Activate for FREE. This is a great feature that will help alert you of possible fraud.

You can learn more and apply by clicking on the link below:


How to Use a Secured Credit Card

A secured credit card is an excellent way to build or rebuild your credit history. In order to gain the most number of points in the shortest amount of time, you need to have a strategy. We recommend the following strategy (and describe how it helped someone build an excellent score in one year here):

  1. Avoid spending more than 10% – 15% of your available credit limit. Yes, that means if your credit limit is only $200, you should not spend more than $20 – $30 a month. Utilization is a very important part of your credit score. To calculate utilization, divide your statement balance by your available credit. People with the best credit scores have utilization well below 20%. Because you want to build an excellent credit score, you should keep your utilization low.
  2. Pay your statement balance on time and in full every month. To ensure your payments are made on time every month, you should consider automating the monthly payments. At the Discover website, you can sign up to have your monthly payment debited automatically from your checking account.
  3. Just continue to repeat Step #1 and Step #2. Your credit score should improve over time, which will help you qualify for a standard credit card.

If you have less than perfect credit and need to borrow money, you should consider shopping for a personal loan.

Who is Eligible to Apply?

According to disclosures on the Discover website, you are eligible to apply if:

  • You are at least 18 years old.
  • You have a Social Security Number.
  • You have an address in the United States.
  • You have a bank account in the United States. Note: You will need to provide your routing number and account number when you apply. If your account is overdrawn, it is highly unlikely that you will be approved.

Your credit history will be reviewed, and not all applications will be approved. The card is best for those with no credit, or scores of 670 or less.

The Application Process

You can apply online and Discover usually provides a decision instantly. You will need to make your security deposit as part of the application, which is why Discover asks for the routing number and account number of your bank.

Please remember that when you apply for the secured credit card, you will have an inquiry on your credit report just like an application for a normal credit card.

Alternate Secured Credit Cards

Discover it has one of the strongest offerings in the market. However, it might not be right for everyone. Here are some other good options.

If you cannot afford the $200 minimum deposit, you should consider the Capital One Secured MasterCard. There is no annual fee and a minimum deposit of $49. You will also be able to receive your FICO score for free. Capital One is known for accepting people with more adverse credit histories. So, if you are rejected by Discover, you might want to consider trying Capital One instead.

Capital One Secured MasterCard

Go to site

You should also consider a secured credit card from your local credit union. MagnifyMoney has a list of some of the best no fee secured credit cards offered by credit unions here.

Build Your Score, Not Your Balance

Secured credit cards are a great way to build your credit score. And, with this product launch, Discover has created an excellent tool. Just make sure you don’t use your credit card to build a balance and borrow money. Keep your balance well below 20% of your available credit, and pay your statement balance on time and in full every month. If you do that, you should start to see real improvement in your score.

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How to Choose Your First Credit Card

Picking your first credit card can seem overwhelming, but by keeping in mind a few key tips, you'll be able to make the right decision with confidence.

Whether you’re a teenager without credit history or an adult who’s familiar with loans and debit cards, choosing your first credit card can be tough. The prospect of finding a card may seem overwhelming, but with the right knowledge, you’ll be able to choose the right card and begin building your credit. Here are several things to consider when choosing your first credit card.

1. Do Your Research

Be aware of what getting a credit card entails, especially because credit mistakes can negatively affect your life and financial standings for a long time. Whether you’re scouring the Internet, speaking with a credit expert or reading our site, it’s important to learn as much as you can before taking the plunge. Being well-versed in the process of applying for and using credit cards will benefit you in the long run. Don’t skimp on research.

2. Ensure You Have Steady Income

Credit card issuers typically require a verifiable income when someone is looking to apply for their first credit card. After all, being able to repay your balance is the key to getting approved for a credit card. Lenders need to know that you’ll pay them back and that they can trust you. Federal law requires that adults under age 21 have income before they can be approved for a credit card without a cosigner. So if you’re a young adult, consider getting a part-time job so you don’t have to find someone to cosign.

3. Choose Wisely

There are plenty of credit cards to choose from. It can be overwhelming to sort the possibilities. While searching, focus on your main concerns and struggles. Are you worried about paying bills on time? Consider a card with a low annual percentage rate. Aren’t sure you’ll have enough self-control for a credit card? A secured credit card could be a great option. There’s a credit card that works for everyone. Don’t choose a credit card because of a cool design or dreamy rewards without checking all of the details.

4. Read the Fine Print

Before you choose your first credit card, make sure you’ve read the terms and checked the fees, rewards and interest rates. A bad combination of card features could come back to bite you if you aren’t careful when signing up for a card. 

5. Consider a Secured Credit Card

Speaking of secured cards, they’re a great option for your first card for several reasons. (Not sure what a secured card is? This article explains it all.) As long as you pay responsibly, your score goes up, and you can switch to an unsecured, card. Some secured cards give you cash back, or offer no annual fees. Your deposit acts as your credit limit, so if you can only pay a security deposit of $200, you’ll have a $200 limit. Having a lower limit shouldn’t be an issue, though, because you’re just starting out with credit. 

Barry Paperno, a credit expert who writes for Speaking of Credit, says a secured card is the way to go for first-time credit card owners. “You can build a really good credit score with just a secured card,” Paperno said. “Plus, because of the security deposit, you won’t have an unpaid charge-off at the end.”

6. Avoid Cards That Require Excellent Credit

Being denied credit doesn’t affect your credit score, but your score is still affected by lenders looking into your credit history. If you apply for your first credit card and it’s out of reach, you’ll end up stuck in a loop of hard inquiries and rejections. “Most card lenders won’t even give you an unsecured card if you have no history,” Paperno said. If you’re not sure where your credit stands, check out your free credit report snapshot on

7. Use Loans to Your Advantage

Essentially, a positive loan history can show card issuers that you’re low risk and are capable of paying them back on time. Loans count as credit, so if you pay them back responsibly that positive information will remain on your credit report for 10 years after being closed. Conversely, a negative loan history will stay on your report for seven years. A loan that’s closed won’t help generate a credit score, but it still looks good to lenders on your report. (For more on loans and their connection to credit, visit our Loan Learning Center.)

8. Become an Authorized User 

A great way to get your first credit card while limiting the responsibility and pressure is by becoming an authorized user. Paperno recommends this as a simple way to build your credit score. This way, you can have a credit score without actually having your own credit card. If you eventually want your own card, being an authorized user makes your score and report look significantly better to lenders.

But remember — if the person whose card you’re becoming an authorized user on falls behind on payments your credit will be impacted as well. Choose someone you trust with a good credit history.

Ultimately, choosing your first credit card is a big decision but an important one. Remember to take the time to research and find which option is best for you when opening your first credit card and every card that follows.

Image: PeopleImages

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How Tragedy & Identity Thieves Kept One Woman From a Near-Perfect Credit Score

Tragedy and identity theft is never a good thing, but in this case, it positively impacted a woman's credit.

Identity theft can deal serious damage to your finances. And repairing its effects can be stressful and time-consuming, especially when it comes to repairing the damage to your credit.

Just ask New Jersey resident, Erin (who asked us not to use her last name, as she was a victim of identity theft). This, plus credit problems arising from her recently deceased parents’ financially accounts, dragged her score down by nearly 50 points, keeping her from the near-perfect credit she had worked hard to earn.

There was no special trick to Erin saving her credit scores. It took hours of calls, but she ended up with a giant credit boost over one weekend this past March.

When the Last Thing on Your Mind Is Your Credit Report

Erin’s credit troubles arose during a time of grief. Her mother died in September 2010. Months later, in March 2011, her father also died.

At 27-years-old, Erin was working to become the administrator of her parents’ estate. They left no will, and Bank of America was looking for a late credit card payment belonging to her father.

Erin told the bank she couldn’t send the payment because she hadn’t been appointed the administrator yet. Once she was appointed in June, she made the payment. She wouldn’t learn until years later that the late payment had ended up on her credit report. In the meantime, she ran into another problem: identity theft.

Just before Christmas 2015, Erin got an alert on her phone from Sprint telling her the new lines she ordered were ready. Problem was, she hadn’t ordered any new lines. She checked her account and saw that someone had added three brand-new iPhones to it.

Whoever had done so was using Erin’s address and Social Security number to get these new devices. And because Erin had good credit, they were able to put the phones on her bill and walk out of three different Sprint stores with three new phones. Erin said her identity was also used to make purchases at AT&T, Verizon, Nordstrom’s, Macy’s, Target and Bloomingdales.

Hours of Phone Calls

To this day, Erin doesn’t know who stole her identity, which is often the case for identity theft victims. She changed all her passwords and started working the phones.

“It was just basically a ton of phone calls,” she said. “Each phone call probably lasted between 35 minutes and an hour.”

Lisa Belot, a spokeswoman for Sprint, said retail workers use scanners to authenticate customers’ driver’s licenses and other technology to prevent fraud. The company urges customers to regularly update passwords and to never share account info with a third party unless the request comes from a trusted source, she added.

With each company, Erin had to start with customer service, which transferred her to the fraud department before they agreed to send letters saying she wouldn’t be responsible for the charges. She filed a report with her local police department and called the three nationwide credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — to put security freezes on her credit reports.

In doing this, she kept anyone from pulling her credit reports to keep anyone from opening lines of credit using her stolen Social Security number. She had never checked her credit reports or scores regularly until her identity was stolen, but she started soon after.

That’s when Erin finally saw the late payment to Bank of America was on her report.

Normally, said Betty Riess, a spokeswoman for Bank of America, once the bank is notified that a customer has died, it removes any fees and interest assessed eight days before and after the notification. Any delinquencies should have no effect on the credit report of the estate administrator.

Therefore, Erin should have been off the hook for the late payment. But after looked into Erin’s case, Riess revealed that Erin had been listed as an account holder on the account along with her father when it opened in 2010.

Erin had been unaware of this and expressed surprise when she found out this year. She had helped her dad with paperwork and bills after her mother died, but she had her own credit cards.

“There would have been no reason for my name to be on the account,” she said.

She also couldn’t find any mention of her name on any of the Bank of America documents she has and says she still keeps a thick file folder of paperwork from her credit fiasco. Erin does acknowledge she may have been on the account without remembering — noting it was a long time ago and during a difficult time.

One Giant Leap for a Credit Score

Despite the credit report and the leftover late payment, Erin still had a decent credit score around 680 at the start of 2017. She had built it up after separating from her ex-husband in 2009, when her score was in the 500s.

After clearing the identity theft off her credit reports, her score shot up to an excellent 767. But around that time, another check of her reports showed the Bank of America payment had remained on her Experian report.

She checked with Experian in February to see what was up, and the agency said the removal of the payment was still pending. When she checked at the beginning of March, it was finally removed. The effect was to rocket up her score 46 points to a near-perfect 804.

Erin gained more than an excellent score from the experience. She also learned good credit habits.

“I’ve been good about always paying on time and making as big of a payment, if not the entire thing, since 2011,” she said.

What You Can Do

To others in the same situation, Erin advised checking the federal website, which breaks down the steps required to recover from identity theft.

Rod Griffin, director of Public Education for Experian, said if you share a joint account with your parent and they die, it’s important to check your credit report to make sure they’re accurately reported. The account may be updated with a statement saying the parent is deceased to keep anyone from using their identity fraudulently. All three national credit bureaus have similar policies.

Meanwhile, your credit report should still say the account is open and active, Griffin said. (For starters, you can check your credit report summary for free on

“As a cosigner or joint account holder, you share full responsibility for the debt, so you may be held liable for any remaining balance on the account,” he said.

While Erin said the experience was a valuable lesson, it didn’t sound like she’d risk going through it again.

“It was really difficult,” she said. “It was probably more difficult because I was stressed and worried about what the implications might be.”

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8 Common Credit Card Mistakes You Might Be Making

Credit cards are a super convenient financial tool, but they can often be confusing.

Do you have a credit card in your wallet? Chances are, you do. And if you’re one of these plastic carriers, you probably want to be using that card the best possible way, right? Well, you may be making some mistakes without even realizing it. To help, we’ve rounded up eight common mistakes to help you discover if you have one of these habits and ultimately correct it.

1. Paying Your Bills Late

“What can do you the most harm is paying late, or not paying at all,” credit score expert Barry Paperno said.

Late payments affect your credit score, plus the late fees and interest quickly add up. Besides all of the effects that hit you right away, Paperno said it can take years to recover from numerous late payments. And if you let it go too long, you could be hit with a charge-off (the point, usually after six months without payment, at which the lender writes your account off as a loss), which stays on your credit report for seven years.

2. Closing a Card You Don’t Really Use

Despite the fact that you never use a particular credit card, closing that card isn’t necessarily the answer. When you close cards, you affect your credit history, usually negatively.

“Don’t make the mistake of closing cards,” Paperno said. “Especially if you think it will help your score, because that will never raise your score.”

When you decrease the amount of credit available to you, you end up increasing your credit utilization ratio, which can hurt your credit. Instead of closing a card, consider simply using it every so often and keep the account active. There are times when closing the card may make sense, like if it carries an annual fee that is hurting your budget, but you’ll want to think about it carefully before making a decision.

3. Not Requesting Changes to Your Terms

While card issuers might seem intimidating, you could be making a mistake by not attempting to change your terms. You could potentially negotiate a lower interest rate or annual fee, helping out your budget in the process. If you’re trying to rid yourself of a balance quickly, call your credit card company. They may help you get a lower interest rate if you just ask.

4. Spending Money Just to Get Rewards

If you find yourself using your credit card unnecessarily to earn rewards, it could be costing you. Rewards are fantastic, but altering your spending habits just to get free stuff isn’t going to be as beneficial as it may sound. If you overspend and carry a balance, you’ll likely lose all those rewards to interest charges.

5. Not Knowing Your Credit Score

If you don’t check your credit score regularly, you’re not educating yourself as much as you could be. Your credit is considered in a lot of situations, from when you apply for a mortgage or car loan to a version of your credit reports being reviewed by a potential employer as part of the application process. Haven’t checked yours in a while? You can see your free credit report snapshot on

6. Only Paying the Minimum Balance

If you only pay your minimum balance each month, you’ll likely end up having to pay more interest down the line. While it might seem like a quick fix to save your money and pay the minimum, in reality you’re dragging out how long it’ll take to pay your entire balance. Keep avoiding those late fees, but if you can, you’ll want to pay more than the minimum.

7. Applying for Out-of-Reach Credit Cards

“Another common credit card mistake is probably applying for too many cards, the wrong cards, or both,” Paperno said.

By applying for a card you aren’t qualified for, you end up without a card and with a “hard inquiry on your report for the next two years,” he added.

While your credit score isn’t directly affected by being denied credit, the more hard inquiries on your credit report, the more dings you’ll see to your scores. Make sure you are a good candidate before applying for any type of credit card.

8. Spending More Money Than You Actually Have

Having a credit card often allows people to make the mistake of overspending. It’s a mistake to charge your credit cards close to their limit, Paperno said. Just as closing a card will raise your credit utilization, so will coming close to your credit limit. Either move can hurt your credit score.

Making Positive Credit Choices

To avoid these eight mistakes from the start, make sure you educate yourself. You don’t have to know everything, but you should be aware of how to be responsible with your credit cards. When a car, house or student loan is on the line, you should be knowledgeable and ready, not hurting from your previous credit card mistakes.

“If you pay on time, keep your balances low and apply for new credit only when you need it,” you’ll be in good shape, Paperno said.

Image: Peopleimages

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Citi Double Cash Review: Twice The Cash, No Limits

Citi Double Cash offers the highest no-fee flat-rate cash back credit card on the market. If you pay your balance in full and on time every month, you can earn up to double cash back on everything you spend. You earn 1% cash back when you spend, and then 1% cash back when you pay. If you pay your statement balance in full and deposit the cash back into your checking account, you will have earned a nice 2%.

There is no cap on the cash back you can earn, and there are no rotating categories or requirements to opt into every quarter. If you are looking to earn a lot of cash back without a lot of work, this card could be right for you.

Citi®Double Cash Card


on Citibank’s secure website

Citi®Double Cash Card

Annual fee
$0 For First Year
$0 Ongoing
Cashback Rate
1% when you buy, 1% when you pay


Credit required


  • Earn cash back twice on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back
  • 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 14.49% - 24.49% based on your creditworthiness
  • Click 'Apply Now' to see the applicable balance transfer fee and how making a balance transfer impacts interest on purchases.
  • No categories to track, no caps on cash back, no annual fee

How the Citi Double Cash Card works

To get double cash back, you must emulate the habits of the savviest credit card holders: use your card, and pay it off in full each month. Do anything else, and you won’t get the full benefit of the double cash back reward.

With the Citi Double Cash Card, you receive your first 1% when you purchase something, but Citi holds onto the second 1% cash back reward until you pay them back. So you get 1% cash back for every dollar you spend, and another 1% cash back for each dollar you pay off on your balance — on time — each month.

To get the maximum double cash back quickly, you should pay off your entire balance. However, as long as you pay the minimum each month, you’ll eventually receive the double cash back, although you’ll pay a lot more than 1% in interest each month.

How to redeem cash back with Citi

When your balance reaches $25, you can choose to redeem your cash reward through a gift card, check, direct deposit, or statement credit to your Citi account. Beware: if you redeem with a statement credit, you won’t get exactly double cash back, but just shy of it depending on the size of the reward.

If you redeem via gift card, you’ll select from retail, restaurant, entertainment, and electronic gift cards in Citi’s gift card marketplace. Choosing the direct deposit option will allow you to transfer your cash back directly to your bank account whether it’s a Citi account or not. If you redeem via check, you should receive a paper check at the address you have on file in 7 to 10 business days.

You can also redeem with a statement credit, but you might notice you don’t get quite double cash back. Since a $25 credit on your statement reduces the amount you’d need to pay back by some amount, you technically get a little less than 2% cash back.

For example, if you redeem $1,000 in cash back for the year, you’ll be shorted about $10 if you redeem your rewards with a statement credit. Assuming you paid off your balance each month, your cash back is reduced to about 1.98%. If you don’t want to miss out on that gap, redeem via check or direct deposit. Also, remember Citi does not count a statement credit as a payment, so you still need to make at least your minimum monthly payment by the due date or you’ll be charged a late fee.

For more details on how to get your cash back, check out this article, where we show you step-by-step how to redeem your cash back with Citi.

Disclaimer: Your rewards will expire if you don’t use your card for 12 months, so be sure to swipe at lease once a year, or redeem your cash before it expires.

How to qualify for the Citi Double Cash Card

Borrowers with good or excellent credit scores are likely to get approved for the Citi Double Cash Card. That means you can still get approved with a few marks on your credit report. That’s unusual as rewards cards with a 0% introductory balance transfer offer like the Citi Double Cash Card are rare for those who lack excellent credit.

Overview of card benefits

The Citi Double Cash Card offers the following benefits and protections to cardholders:

  • No penalty for your first missed payment. Citi won’t charge you a late fee on a first missed payment. This benefit forgives those who usually pay on time, but may miss a payment by accident. Careful, you WILL be charged a fee if you miss a second payment.
  • Citi Private Pass. Citi customers get special access to purchase presale tickets and VIP packages to events such as concerts, sporting events, dining experiences, and complimentary movie screenings.
  • Citi Price Rewind. If you notice a price drop on the big-ticket item you just bought, Citi may have already refunded you the difference. Citi Price Rewind will look for a lower price on any registered items you purchase for 60 days. If the system finds a lower price, you may be refunded the difference.
  • Chip-enabled card. Just one warning: this is a chip and signature card (and not a chip and pin card). While that should be fine for all of your spending in America, it might make using the card overseas a bit more difficult when only chip-and-pin is accepted.
  • Citi Concierge. Citi Concierge sets you up with trained experts to help you plan your travel, shopping, dining, entertainment, and other parts of your next trip.
  • Protection against interrupted trips. If your travel plans are interrupted for some reason, Citi will reimburse you for part of your hassle. The bank will reimburse any nonrefundable travel expenses such as change fees if you paid for the ticket with your Citi Double Cash Card.
  • Car rental and collision insurance. You can skip paying extra for the rental company’s collision loss and damage insurance if you use your Citi Double Cash Card. Citi will cover you against any theft or damage done to the rental as long as you used your Citi card to pay for it.
  • Zero liability protection. You won’t be held responsible for unauthorized charges made with your card or account information. This is a fairly common credit card benefit.
  • Purchase protection covers repairs or refunds for your new purchases in case of damage or theft within 120 days of your making the purchase.
  • Lost wallet service. If you happen to lose your wallet and everything in it, take some comfort in knowing your Citi card, at least, will be replaced within 24 hours. Citi can also give you emergency cash up to your available cash advance limit to help out between losing your card and receiving a new one.

Why we like the Citi Double Cash Card

It has the highest no-fee flat rate reward in the market.

The clearest advantage of the Citi Double Cash Card is that it offers the highest flat rate cash rewards program without an annual fee on the market. The card’s double cash back feature can be a valuable feature for those known to make most everyday purchases on a credit card, and pay the card balance off each month.

The flat rate on all purchases keeps earning rewards simple.

If you like things simple, the card’s flat rate on everything will make keeping up with rewards a breeze. You’ll earn 1% on everything you buy, so there won’t be any need for you to fumble through a stack of credit cards for a specific cash back card at the grocery store. It also eliminates stressing over when or by how much rewards categories might change on your current go-to card each quarter.

It’s a good balance transfer card, too.

The card’s 18-month introductory 0% balance transfer offer makes it a good choice for those seeking to consolidate debt, too. The cash back rewards won’t apply to your balance transfer, but you’ll get 18 billing cycles to pay off the balance interest-free before the card’s higher ongoing interest rate kicks in.

It comes with other great cardholder benefits.

The Citi Double Cash Card’s other benefits aren’t bad either. The card also grants you free access to view your Equifax FICO® Score, and the Citi Price Rewind benefit automatically reimburses you the difference on purchases made with your card if the price changes within 60 days.

What to watch out for with the Citi Double Cash Card

You have to pay off your balance in full to reap the full reward.

You could pay the minimum each month and eventually see you’ve redeemed your cash back. However, the reward really only benefits you if you pay your balance in full each month. If you don’t, the full interest you’ll be charged on your purchases will eclipse the double cash back benefit.

It charges a 3% balance transfer fee.

Although the balance transfer isn’t the main perk the card has, it’s important to note Citi charges you a 3% fee to transfer your balance. Granted, the charge isn’t much compared to the 16% on average you’d be charged in interest on your balance each month if you don’t transfer, but there are many, no-fee balance transfer alternatives (like the Discover it or Chase Slate cards) you could qualify for instead.

You get charged 3% to use it overseas.

You’ll pay to use this card overseas, and the fee isn’t worth it if you can avoid doing so. The 3% foreign transaction fee you’ll be charged to swipe makes the potential double cash back you’d receive on the purchase trivial.

It doesn’t come with a sign-on bonus.

With the Citi Double Cash Card, you won’t get a sign-on bonus like you’d get with other competing cash back cards like Fidelity’s Rewards Visa Signature ($100) or the Capital One Quicksilver card. It’s not a huge pitfall among the card’s best-in-class cash back offer and other perks, but it’s something to consider when weighing your options.

Your rewards will eventually expire.

Take care to redeem your cash back before you stop using the card! If you don’t earn cash back on rewards with your Citi Double Cash Card for 12 months, your rewards will expire. If you plan to stop using the card — maybe you accepted the offer for a specific purchase, or simply for the balance transfer offer — make sure to redeem your cash back before adding it to your credit card graveyard.

Alternatives to the Citi Double Cash Card

The Citi Double Cash Card has the highest no-fee flat rate cash back reward on the market, but it might not be the best cash back card for you, depending on your spending habits.

Cards that only earn cash back in certain categories, for example, may work better for you. You might find you spend most of your income in a category such as groceries or gas, so you’d earn a greater reward with a card that earns cash back only in specific spending categories or enjoy keeping up with rotating categories.

Next we compare how the Citi Double Cash Card compares to four other cash back credit cards:

  • Fidelity’s Rewards Visa Signature – the other 2% cash back credit card
  • Alliant Cashback Visa Signature – the 2.5%-3% cash back credit card with a fee
  • Chase Freedom — the rotating category alternative
  • Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express — the bonus category alternative

Fidelity Rewards Visa Signature

Fidelity’s Rewards Visa Signature card earns cardholders 2% cash back on all purchases with no annual fee. The card is best for existing Fidelity customers, as the funds you earn must be deposited into a Fidelity account.

Borrowers with “good” credit need not apply for this card. Your credit score has to be above 700 to get approved for a line of credit with the Fidelity Visa. Even then, you may be disappointed if you’re not a big Fidelity customer as Fidelity bases its credit limits on the total amount of assets it’s managing on your behalf.

Alliant Cashback Visa Signature

If you don’t mind paying an annual fee, the Alliant Cashback Visa Signature card could be a viable alternative to the Citi Double Cash Card.

Alliant’s Cashback Visa Signature card offers an unlimited 3% on all purchases in the first year and 2.5% cash back on all purchases in the years following. You’ll also forgo a foreign transaction fee if you use the card overseas. The catch is, cardholders pay a $59 annual fee to hold the card. Only those with excellent credit and high income will qualify for this rewards offer.

Chase Freedom — the rotating category alternative

With Chase Freedom, you’ll automatically earn 1% back on all purchases, 5% on purchases you make in the categories you’ve activated. The card also offers a $150 signing bonus when you spend $500 on purchases in the first three months the account is open.

The Chase Freedom card rotates rewards categories each quarter, so you’ll need to look out for changes and opt in to the quarter’s categories before you can start earning rewards in them. You also won’t be charged interest on purchases or balance transfers made in the first 15 months. You can also earn a $25 bonus when you add an authorized user and make your first purchase within the first three months.

If you qualify for the Citi Double Cash Back Card, you have a good chance of qualifying for Chase Freedom, too. Borrowers with good or excellent credit scores have the best shot at getting approved for the Chase Freedom card.

Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express — the bonus category alternative

With a card like the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, you’ll earn a larger amount of cash back, but only in one fixed category. The card awards holders 6% cash back at all supermarkets, on up to $6,000 worth of spending. You also get 3% cash back on gas station spending. So, if your household spends big on gas and groceries, the rewards you’d earn with a card like the Blue Cash Preferred Card will likely be greater that what you could earn with the Citi Double Cash Card.

The Blue Cash Preferred Card also awards a $250 sign-on bonus to cardholders who spend $1,000 within the first three months of opening the account, and you won’t be charged interest on your first 12 months of purchases, boosting your rewards in the first year. You won’t be charged any interest on a balance transfer for the first year either, but you will be charged 3% to transfer your balance over in the first place. The main downside to this card’s offerings is that it charges a $95 annual fee, so unless the cash back you’d earn makes that amount negligible, you should steer clear of this card.

Try using this tool to figure out which cash back card has the best ongoing program for your needs. Fill in how much you tend to spend each month in each spending category, and the system will generate recommendations based on your spending habits.

Who benefits the most from the Citi Double Cash Card

Overall, cash back cards can be a great way to put some extra money in your pocket, as long as you remember to pay your statement balance in full each month. Interest and late fees can eclipse your cash back earnings pretty quickly.

The Citi Double Cash Card is best for borrowers with good or excellent credit, who make everyday purchases with a credit card and have great payment habits. The double cash back feature is great if you already have the discipline to pay your statement balances off in full each month, and it’s the only way the card’s reward offer is valuable. If you don’t think you can consistently pay off your card each month, it’s best to get the habit set in stone before trying a rewards credit card.

If you’ve never had a rewards card, the Citi Double Cash Card’s simple terms and flat rate cash back rewards make for a great starter rewards card and — so long as you pay your balance off each month — it can be a great way to earn extra pocket change without going into debt.

Citi Double Cash Card FAQs

You’ll get up to double cash back on all of your purchases, which is the logic behind advertising the card as “Double Cash” and not “2% Cash.” You’ll earn your first 1% on all purchases, then another 1% when you pay off the purchase, but if you choose to redeem your cash back via statement credit on your account, you’re technically getting just shy of 2% cash back.

Yes, the cash back on the Citi Double Cash expires if you haven’t used your card for 12 months.

Anything over 1.5% cash back is a good deal. There are some cards that offer more — as much as 5% or 6% cash back on purchases. But sometimes those offers are too good to be true. Banks don’t like to lose money and will pepper the fine print with all sorts of limitations. For example, they may offer 5% cash back on only purchases at certain types of retailers and only for certain periods of time. And those categories may change every quarter, which can make it hard to keep track.

Don’t let those cash back promises pressure you into spending more than you can afford. If you don’t pay your statement balance in full each month, you could get slapped with sky-high interest charges. That would totally negate any benefit you might get from earning cash back. Cash back cards are only valuable if you can pay your bill in full and capture the entirety of your cash back rewards.

It depends on the card. Some cards allow you to redeem cash back dollar for dollar as a statement credit, which can help lower your total balance. Just keep in mind that applying cash back to your card statement does not count as a monthly payment. Other cards will increase the value of your cash back if you spend on certain categories, like travel. Review your terms carefully to be sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck.

Find the card that fits your day-to-day spending needs best, beyond the flashy sign-up bonus offers and cash back promises. Pay your bill in full each month (spend only what you can afford to pay off).

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A Guide to Getting Your Free Credit Score

As a consumer of financial products it is important to monitor your credit score on a regular basis. This will ensure that you know where you stand in the credit landscape when it comes time to apply for a new credit card, loan, mortgage, or other product. Monitoring your credit score regularly can also help notify you of any unexpected changes to your credit history such as fraud.

There are numerous free credit scores available for you to access; however, not all scores are considered equal. Credit lenders will often pull specific scores, depending on the product you are applying for. Therefore, we have created a simple chart for you to see where you can get specific credit scores from the top two companies — FICO® and VantageScore. The best part is, it’s all for free!

Read on for details on important aspects that make up your credit score and which score suits your individual needs.


Finding the Right Credit Score

Where to Access Your Credit Score for Free

The below chart lists some of the various versions of credit scores and where you can access them for free from a variety of banks, credit card companies, and personal finance websites.

FICO® Score vs. VantageScore

You may be wondering which score is better — FICO® score or VantageScore? We’re going to break down what the different versions of the two scores are best for in the next section, but for now here are several differences between the two major types of credit scores.

Find the Best Credit Score for Your Needs:

The credit score that you are looking for varies, depending on what type of credit you are looking to apply for. Each credit score version has different benefits, and lenders pull certain scores in accordance with your application.

Credit Score Monitoring

The best options: All VantageScores and FICO® scores

If you’re simply looking to monitor your credit score and stay on top of your credit, either VantageScore or FICO® score will suffice.

New Credit Card

The best options: FICO® Bankcard Scores or FICO® Score 8 primarily; FICO® Score 3

Where to get them: Get your FICO® Score 8 from Credit Scorecard by Discover or

When applying for a new credit card, these scores are most likely to be pulled by credit card issuers. Lenders may pull your score from one or all three bureaus.

Mortgage Loans and Mortgage ReFis

The best options: FICO® Scores 2, 4, 5

Where to get them: myFICO for $59.85

These scores are used in the majority of mortgage-related credit evaluations, with lenders pulling your score from all three bureaus. However, these scores are not free and can only be purchased at myFICO.

Auto Loans

The best options: FICO® Auto Scores 2, 4, 5, 8, 9

Where to get them: myFICO for $59.85

Auto scores are industry-specific and used in the majority of auto-financing credit evaluations. Lenders may pull your score from one or all three bureaus. Unfortunately, these scores are not free and need to be purchased at myFICO.

Personal Loans, Student Loans, and Retail Credit

The best option: FICO® Score 8

Where to get it: Credit Scorecard by Discover or

For other financial products such as personal loans, student loans, and retail credit, FICO® Score 8 is best. This is the credit score most widely used by lenders, and they may pull your score from one or all three bureaus when making a decision.

Other Scores and Their Value

FICO® Score 9 is the newest model and not widely used yet. It is also not available for free at this time. The benefits of this score are that it doesn’t penalize you for paid collections and reduces the ding you get from unpaid medical collections. See our review for more information.

The FICO® NextGen score is used to assess credit risk, but only a small number of lenders use it due to its 150-950 scoring range and older model.

Credit Score Basics

What are the three credit bureaus?

There are three credit bureaus that report your credit score to financial institutions and personal finance websites. The bureaus are TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. They collect credit information from a plethora of lenders and data providers and then consolidate it into a credit file, with your credit score being the key piece of information. You can’t get your credit score directly from the bureaus, but earlier in this article we discussed numerous resources where you can access your credit score — for free.

What is a FICO® score?

A FICO® score is a number that predicts how likely you are to pay back a loan or other credit products in a timely manner. FICO® scores range from 300 to 850. The higher your score, the more likely you are to be approved for credit cards, loans, mortgages, and other financial products. FICO® scores are the most widely used credit scores — influencing over 90% of U.S. lending decisions.

How is a FICO® score calculated?

FICO® scores are calculated from data in your credit reports and made up of the following five key factors:

  1. Payment history (35%):
    Your payment history is simply a record of your on-time or missed payments. It’s the largest component of your FICO score — and therefore the most important aspect to focus on if you want to improve it.
  2. Amounts owed — aka utilization (30%):
    Utilization is the amount of your credit limit you use. It is ideal to have a utilization below 20%. If you have two credit cards, one with a $10,000 limit and the other $5,000, then your total credit limit is $15,000. If you have a combined $3,000 debt across both cards, then your utilization would be 20%.
  3. Length of credit history (15%):
    The total length of time that you’ve had credit across all products you have. For example, expect your credit score to be slightly lower if you have had credit for six months versus six years.
  4. New credit (10%):
    Frequency of credit inquiries and new account openings. When you open a new account, your credit score will take a slight dip for about six months, then it will rise — as long as you’re responsible in the other four factors mentioned.
  5. Credit mix (10%):
    This is the different types of credit you have. This includes credit cards, retail accounts, installment loans, and other financial products. The more variety of credit you’re responsible with, the better your score will be.

What is a VantageScore?

A VantageScore is also a number that measures your credit risk. These scores typically range from 300 to 850 (501-990 for earlier models) and are used by 20 of the 25 largest financial institutions. VantageScores are in line with FICO® — the higher your score, the better. VantageScores are more widely available for free from online resources than FICO® scores; however, a majority of lenders pull your FICO® score when making decisions.

How is a VantageScore calculated?

VantageScores are calculated from data in your credit reports and influenced by the following six key factors:



Credit scores are typically updated every 30 days. Depending on your activity, your score may remain the same or fluctuate.

No, checking your score will not do any damage to your score.

Your credit scores differ based on the information that each bureau pulls. Most information is the same, but one bureau may use unique information that another bureau doesn’t have, creating a difference in scores. Also, if you compare your FICO® scores and VantageScores, they will differ because they use different criteria when pulling your score.

A FAKO score is a non-FICO score that is known as an “equivalency score” or “educational score.” FAKO scores give you a general picture of where you stand, but aren’t used by lenders when making a credit decision and therefore aren’t accurate in predicting if you’ll be approved.

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Does Having Multiple Credit Cards Hurt or Help My Credit?

will having several accounts affect your credit? The answer to these questions often comes down to personal habits and goals.

Credit cards are a staple of Americans’ wallets. The average adult has at least two bank-issued accounts, according to Experian’s 2016 State of Credit report. Consumer credit plays a key role in financial health, and, when used wisely, can strengthen your stance in the credit score range and help you secure loans with the best interest rates.

On the other hand, bad credit often leads to higher interest rates and could even disqualify you from the lending process. (Not sure where your finances stand? You can view two of your credit scores for free on, which will not hurt them in any way.)

So how many credit cards are too many? And will having several accounts affect your credit? The answer to these questions often comes down to personal habits and goals, and there are several pros and cons to consider.

The Benefits of Multiple Credit Cards

If you’re an experienced and responsible credit user, the benefits of maintaining more than one card could outweigh the risks.

Earning Maximum Rewards

Credit card issuers offer a variety of perks for cardholders. Using multiple cards allows you to strategize and earn for every dollar you spend. For example, suppose you are a frequent flyer who is also interested in funding your child’s education. Card A is tailored to suit travel-related rewards, while Card B’s sole focus is college savings. You can take advantage of multiple benefits by considering your most frequent expenditures and choosing credit cards that align with your goals.

Safety When One Card Is Compromised

Credit card issuers are cracking down on identity theft, but chip technology still isn’t perfect. If your credit information is compromised, your issuer will probably send you a new card and instruct you to shred the old one. If this occurs, it’s useful to have a second option for emergencies.

The Drawbacks of Multiple Credit Cards

While there are potential benefits of maintaining multiple credit cards, there are a few drawbacks worth considering.

Losing Track of Spending

The case for fewer credit cards often comes down to simple math: Fewer credit cards means fewer chances to overspend. If you struggle with budgeting, it can be difficult to curb spending with a high credit limit. You also run the risk of digging yourself into a hole of debt that’s difficult to escape.

Forgetting to Pay a Bill

If your life is chaotic or your memory is lacking, the last thing you need is multiple account balances to keep track of. While it’s possible to create reminders for yourself with budgeting apps, the potential credit damage caused by late payments, fees and accruing interest may not be worth the trouble.

While there is no ideal number of credit cards to keep in your wallet, learning how your credit score is calculated can help you use them wisely. Bolster your score by creating deliberate spending habits and credit usage along the way.

Image: PeopleImages

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Big Changes Coming to Millions of Credit Reports in a Few Days

Millions of people could see their credit scores rise July 1.

Up to 7% of people with credit scores could see them rise beginning July 1 when credit reporting agencies will start excluding most civil judgments and about half of all tax lien data from credit reports.

As announced in March, the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, will start holding public data to new standards. After July 1, any public record data must include a consumer’s name and address, as well as their Social Security number or date of birth, to appear on their credit file, according to the Consumer Data Industry Association.

Who Is Affected?

Most people should see little impact on their credit scores, according to an analysis conducted in March by FICO, the most common provider of credit scores. About 7% of people with FICO scores, or about 15 million of the 220 million Americans with scores, will see a judgment or tax lien removed from their credit files, the analysis said.

Public records like bankruptcies, tax liens and civil judgments typically stay on credit reports for seven years, so those who see these items removed get a long-lasting weight removed from their credit scores.

However, most of the people who have items removed will experience score increases of less than 20 points, FICO said. The reason the increase isn’t greater is because 92% of people who will have tax liens or judgments removed have other negative information on their credit files. To see if the change affects you, you can check two of your credit scores free on

In addition to culling the public record data, the agencies also plan to update their public record information at least every 90 days.

While the credit score increase is relatively modest, it may still be enough to allow people to qualify for loans or credit reports that may have been out of reach before. Most of the people impacted had a median credit score of 565 before the change.

Twenty points above that median puts people in range of a Federal Housing Administration loan with only a 3.5% down payment. The minimum FICO score required for such a loan is 580.

The National Consumer Action Plan

Equifax, Experian and TransUnion are making the changes as part of a 2015 settlement with 31 state attorneys general who were investigating the agencies over the accuracy of credit reports. In response, the agencies launched the National Consumer Action Plan, which aims to make credit information more transparent for consumers.

In addition to the public record data, the plan also prohibits the agencies from including medical debts on credit reports until after 180 days to allow insurance payments to go through. The plan also calls for the bureaus to hire specially trained employees to deal with credit disputes and allow consumers to obtain an additional free credit report if they find an error on their free annual credit report.

Image: jacoblund

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