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5 Credit Reports You Don’t Know About But Should

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You may already know that lenders and other service providers use lots of different credit scores to determine whether they want to do business with you (and at what rate you’ll pay), but you may not realize that there are a variety of credit reports in use as well.

Though a majority of companies request a copy of your credit report from one of the three major credit bureaus when you apply for a credit card or loan, “there are niche providers of different types of data,” Dennis Dixon, president of Zoot Enterprises, a firm that provides credit analytics to financial institutions, said. “Many of these alternative credit reporting sources are used in addition to the base bureau’s credit report.”

As such, these data sources can ultimately determine your ability to secure affordable financing, housing, cellphone plans or other contracts. Here are five speciality credit reports you may not know about, but should.

1. The Work Number

Equifax’s work number provides employment and income verification data obtained from private sector payroll processors to prospective employers. The Work Number is also used by lenders to verify an applicant’s ability to repay, Dixon said. Fannie Mae, for instance, recently announced that mortgage lenders would be able to use Equifax’s employment and income verification information in lieu of pay stubs, effective mid-2016.

Remember, some employers will pull a copy of your credit report during their job application process, though the law does prohibit them from viewing your credit score. This data may come from speciality consumer reporting agencies that provide background and employment screening services.

2. Special Renter Reports

Landlords also look at credit when they are deciding whether to let a particular applicant rent their rooms. Often, the reports they use are more expansive than the traditional versions. For instance, specialty renters’ reports can include property rental addresses for up to seven years, rental payment performance history, average length of past rentals, pet ownership, cleanliness of living conditions, reason for renting (including foreclosure), civil court records, criminal background check, financial credit reports, past evictions, tenant history scores and lease risk scores.

3. National Consumer Telecom & Utilities Exchange

The exchange is made up of utility, telecommunication and pay-TV providers that voluntarily share consumer payment records, connection requests, defaults, and fraudulent account information with one another. “It’s a give-to-get model,” Dixon said. The information can be used to determine whether a person receives a contract with the provider and what rate or fees they might be asked to pay. Similar exchanges exist among medical providers, payday lenders and insurance companies.

4. Check & Bank Screening

Financial institutions will check your credit when you apply for financing, but they also may request a specialty credit report when you apply for a checking or savings account. Check and bank screenings can include data on checking account applications, openings and closures (along with your reason for shuttering the account). They may be used by banks or merchants in an attempt to detect and prevent fraud associated with bank accounts and payment transactions.

5. Casino Credit

Casinos often outsource credit-checking services to alternative data companies in order to make decisions about extending marker credit to their patrons. There are many reasons why it may not be a good idea to apply for a line of credit with a casino (particularly if you’re not a disciplined spender). However, it’s also important to know in this instance that your credit is being checked since this application (along with the one mentioned above) could generate a hard inquiry on your traditional credit report and, subsequently, ding your credit scores.

Dealing With Multiple Credit Reports

The idea that different sources of data can (or cannot) be used against you may certainly seem daunting. Fortunately, no matter what credit report — or credit score — is being used, the same federal laws apply. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires, for instance, that firms provide a copy of the report they used when a consumer is denied or offered adverse terms on a contract or loan. This means, should you find yourself on the receiving end of an unexpected denial or a higher interest rate, you will receive materials that may help you pin down the cause.

FCRA also entitles consumers to one free credit report from each credit bureau once a year. So, if, for example, you were about to apply for an apartment lease or another contract where unique data was going to be used “you can request free copies in advance and if you find errors, they are obligated to correct them,” Dixon said. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a list of consumer credit reporting agencies that can help you determine if there’s a report you should be checking before filling out a particular application.

Of course, you should continue to monitor your traditional credit report regularly as well. You can request copies of your free credit reports each year at AnnualCreditReport.com from the major credit reporting agencies and see your credit scores for free each month on Credit.com.

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