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Episode 32: Understanding and Managing Your Credit Score with Matt Gray

Have you ever wanted to purchase a piece of equipment, rent land, or apply for a credit card? If so, then you’ve most likely encountered the importance of having a good credit score.

A credit score is like a report card of your financial behavior, showing lenders how responsible you are with credit. Just like good grades in school helps you get into a good college or land a better job, a good credit score can open doors to financial opportunities with lower interest rates, better terms, and fewer fees. On the other hand, a poor credit score can make it harder to get approved for loans or credit cards.

It’s essential to understand what a credit score is, how it’s calculated, and how you can maintain and improve it. AgCredit residential loan officer, Matt Gray shares information and helpful tips on credit scores:

The Wide Open Range of Credit Scores

Overall, credit scores can range from 300 at the low end to 850 at the high end. So what’s a good credit score? Matt says it is a little bit different for everyone.

“Typically, 580 to 669 is considered fair, and what we would call subprime in the business,” says Matt. “Meaning, it’s there, it’s got a pulse, it’s an indication that there is some credit established, but it’s not the best and could use some work.”

The 670 to 739 range is categorized as a good credit score. 740 to 799 is considered very good, and 800 and up is an excellent credit score.

“There’s a vast range, and everybody falls into a different range for different reasons,” explains Matt.

Quick Stat: The average credit score in the U.S. falls within the good category at 714.

Start Small

When you want to start building your credit, it’s not always an easy thing to do, especially when you are starting at zero or are a young borrower.

“There has to be a financial institution or creditor that’s willing to be that first for you,” says Matt. The good news is there are a lot of different ways to start building your credit.

One of the easiest ways for someone to start building credit at a young age is to be added as a signer on a parent’s credit card.

“They don’t necessarily have to have a physical card and be using that card, but it at least injects some credit life into their history,” explains Matt. “That’s a quick way to get some instant scores to pop up and make credit inquiries a little bit easier for those younger people.”

If you don’t have a parent or someone willing to add you as a signer, then the best way to start building credit is to start small with a consumer credit card. Most likely, the credit limit will be low, but slowly, you can start to establish a credit history.

Quick Tip: With revolving credit, like that of credit cards or home equity lines of credit which you can borrow from, pay back, and remains open for you to use, be sure to keep your balance at a proportional percentage to your limit. For example, if you’re given a $1,000 credit limit and you buy something for $500, you can easily go above the 30% mark of the limit set for you. Credit score models can count this against you. A quick way to remedy this is to call your creditor and see if your limit can be raised.

What Determines a Credit Score

Credit scores are calculated by a number of different things, but if you imagine a pie chart with percentages, Matt says “the big fish is your payment history.”

While a large portion of your credit score is determined by making timely payments, another chunk of the pie is the amount of debt you owe and the types of debt you have.

“Different types of debt hold different weights in terms of how your credit score is determined,” explains Matt. “Meaning, do you have revolving accounts, installment loans, or mortgage debt?”

The last piece of the pie is establishing new credit. All of these categories make up what kind of credit risk you are.

Quick Tip: Not all credit reports are created equal. When a lender pulls your credit score, you may find it’s very different than what you’ve seen from a consumer-type credit report like that from Credit Karma. These reports use a different score model where the weighted factors are different.

No Credit Over Bad Credit 

Having no credit is better than bad credit. “In most cases, lenders are willing to take a chance on a credit risk with no credit history versus someone who has credit history but it’s a mess,” explains Matt.

With bad debt, a lender can only judge you by your past credit history. If your credit history shows untimely payments, your lender is less likely to extend credit to you. They’ll be wondering, “How is this individual going to pay this debt back? Are they capable? Are they responsible enough?”

Quick Tip: Don’t let bad debt or even small debts linger. It will put a ceiling on the types of financial options you can be offered. Try to clean it up yourself.

Overall, understanding and managing your credit score is an important aspect of achieving financial well-being. Matt’s biggest advice when it comes to navigating your credit score: “Become a good student of your own credit.”

Here’s a glance at this episode:

  • [02:47] Matt introduces himself and his role in residential lending at AgCredit.
  • [05:23] Matt explains the importance of credit scores.
  • [07:11] Matt defines the range of credit scores from lowest to highest and what they are categorized as.
  • [09:40] Matt suggests ways to build good credit.
  • [13:27] Matt shares information about credit scores by generation.
  • [15:14] Matt explains how credit scores are calculated and what can impact them.
  • [21:02] Explaining how credit scores are pulled, Matt debunks the common thinking that it automatically affects your credit score negatively.
  • [25:48] Matt shares where and how often you can pull your own credit report.
  • [31:55] If fraudulent activity is suspected, Matt shares what to do.
  • [34:10] Matt explains why not all credit reports are created equal.
  • [38:27] Matt leaves with tips on avoiding and overcoming bad credit history.

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Email podcast@agcredit.net

Bios

Guest Matt Gray

Matt is a mortgage loan originator for AgCredit serving Wood, Lucas and Henry counties. He has spent the past 16 years with AgCredit and has been in the industry for 20 years. 

Transcription

Voiceover (00:08):Welcome to AgCredit Said It. In each episode, our hosts sit down with experts from all parts of the agriculture industry to bring you insights and must-have information on all things from farming to finances and everything in between.

Phil Young (00:26):We're here for another great episode of AgCredit Said It. I'm Phil Young. Alongside me today is Libby Wixtead. Hey Libby. How we doing?

Libby Wixtead (00:33):Good. How are you today, Phil?

Phil Young (00:35):I'm doing awesome. We're here in the great city of Bowling Green, doing an interview, so it's nice to get out of the office a little bit, venture into a new city.

Libby Wixtead (00:41):Yes, traveling. This is a nice travel day with it being a little icy this morning in March. So this is a little unusual, I guess, for March.

Phil Young (00:51):Yeah, I saw a funny video the other day. It was like December snow versus March snow and just how your attitude changes. There's a big switch.

Libby Wixtead (00:58):How much you hate it.

Phil Young (00:59):You get angry, yeah.

Libby Wixtead (01:01):Yes.

Phil Young (01:01):Angry about snow. But we have another second-timer with us today, which he's going to be inducted in the second-timer club like our CEO Brian Ricker. So we have Mr. Matt Gray with us. He's come to chat everything about CBI scores, how to check them, what is a good score, how to improve them, and much more. So Matt, welcome to the podcast.

Matt Gray (01:23):Good to be here, Phil. I look forward to being inducted into that second-timer category, and yeah, let's dive into some credit score stuff.

(01:34):As lenders, I think we're all a little bit of a credit score geek. There's a little credit score nerd inside of all of us that thinks this stuff is interesting, whereas maybe the common person doesn't even like to think about this type of stuff until it comes as something that they have to contend with, whether that's because they're trying to obtain credit or insurance, all myriads of things that are based on these credit scores nowadays. So yeah, we've got some information to share here and happy to be here.

Phil Young (02:10):It's kind of fun. For some people, they're always... It's this big surprise because you don't check it that often and you really should. But some people are like, "What is my score? What is it?" You know? They get really excited.

Matt Gray (02:22):Yes, yes. And it's usually a duel.

Phil Young (02:25):Right. Yes, exactly.

Matt Gray (02:26):If you have a spouse, it's always up on the credit poll and those numbers come out, "Oh, I beat you. I got you this time."

Phil Young (02:34):Yep. My wife did that to me. She says, "One point. Beat you."

Matt Gray (02:36):Yes. She got you?

Phil Young (02:37):She got me, yeah.

Matt Gray (02:38):Yeah, that happens.

Libby Wixtead (02:40):Yep, I fall into that. Anything, I can win at.

Matt Gray (02:45):Yeah.

Phil Young (02:47):Good. And Matt, before we jump in, and you were on a previous podcast, but can you share what you do. You work for AgCredit. What do you do here? What's your specialty?

Matt Gray (02:57):Sure. Yeah, so my name's Matt Gray. I work as a residential loan officer here at Ag Credit. I work out of the Bowling Green branch office and the Napoleon branch office. I also cover the Mount Gilead branch office now.

(03:12):Yeah, I'm here to offer all types of residential loans of any sort for a number of different purposes to our membership, to future rural borrowers, anybody that we can fit into a category. And we have a ton of mortgage products and programs. We're not so specific that we have to just stay in rural areas or work with just specifically farmers. We can work with just about anybody. So we're excited to field those phone calls and inquiries about residential stuff.

Phil Young (03:53):And the nice thing, Matt's seasoned, he's been doing this a while. So how long have you been doing loans?

Matt Gray (03:59):I've been in this business for 20, close to 21 years. Been here for almost 16 years now. So yeah, I've been doing this for a while. I've seen a lot of changes over the years, whether that's policy, interest rates, programs, economy changes, all sorts of different things, the ebbs and flows of the business. So, I've seen a lot.

Libby Wixtead (04:26):So one of those things that probably hasn't changed so much is what we're going to talk about today is how much your credit score can impact really not just a home loan application, but really any loan that you are obtaining or even obtaining a credit card.

(04:42):And that's one thing, I guess to point out, is that that affects you once you start any type of credit. So if you get a credit card when you're 16 years old through your parents, or if you're 18 and you get one on your own, it starts there. So if we have younger listeners, I just want you to know that it starts when you get that first credit card and it can impact a lot of things that we're going to talk about today.

 

(05:12):So can you tell us how a credit score can impact your home loan application approval? How does that work?

Matt Gray (05:23):Certainly. Well, I'll just start by saying credit scores are very important, more than I think the common person really understands. It affects so many things in life. And like you mentioned, hopefully the younger listeners are really paying attention because one wrong turn early in your credit life can steer you in the wrong direction and be really hard to resurface from. That's the thing.

(05:55):But to your question, how does it affect your approval when you are submitting a loan application, whether that's for a house or an auto loan, et cetera? Well, if you want the best of the best, lowest interest rates, best terms, things are going to set you up for success and the lowest cost financial opportunity, then look no further than your credit score, first and foremost. Keep that thing healthy. There's many ways to do it and there's a lot of things that go into it.

 

(06:34):And just if I could say anything about how to navigate your credit score, especially when you're young and what your outlook should be about your credit score, just become a student of your own credit and just make sure it's a piece of your life. Make sure you know what's going on at all times and just be prudent with the options that you have, the choices you make, and paying your bills of course.

Phil Young (07:11):And one of the questions I get a lot is, if someone's not well-versed on credit scores, is what is the range? Does it go all the way from zero to what?

Matt Gray (07:23):Oh, right.

Phil Young (07:23):And then you get it pulled. And sometimes I'll share the score and they're like, "Is that good? I don't know."

Matt Gray (07:29):Right, right.

Phil Young (07:30):So what is that range?

Matt Gray (07:31):So the range of credit scores from the lowest you could possibly have to the highest is 300 to 850. And over the years, I've seen anything and everything in between to the low end of that, to the top end of that within those score ranges.

(07:50):And to answer your question, what's a good credit score? It's going to be a little bit different for everybody there, but just to quote Equifax right from their website, what they categorize as fair, good, very good, excellent, 580 to 669 is going to be considered fair, and what we would call subprime in the business. So meaning, it's there, it's got a pulse, it's an indication that there is some credit established in most cases, but it's not the best. It could use some work.

 

(08:32):670 to 739 is considered good. 740 to 799, very good. And of course, 800 on up is considered an excellent credit score. So there's a vast range, as you can tell, and everybody falls into a different range and for different reasons. And I do have some additional information to share on that.

 

(08:58):But yeah, to answer your question, if you want to have a good credit score, I think the average in the U.S. over the last two years, an average credit score, just to give you a basis, is 714. So that should give you a little bit of a measuring stick.

Phil Young (09:18):Sure, yeah. Okay.

Libby Wixtead (09:19):That's good. That's an average of 714 since that falls into the good. And I'd say that's probably where we see a lot of our customers fall is in that 700s. I know some of the people, again, wanting to win at everything, it's like, "Okay, I'm at 800, how can I do better?" You know?

Matt Gray (09:36):Yeah, yeah.

Libby Wixtead (09:37):It's like, "No, you're excellent."

(09:40):Can you share, I guess, how can people build up that credit? If you do have somebody who is 22 years old and they're like, "Okay, I want to buy some equipment, buy some land," or, "I'm looking at buying my first home. How do I build my credit if I've always done everything through cash?"

Matt Gray (10:06):Sure. Well, there's a lot of different ways to start your credit life, as I like to say, and it's not an easy thing to do when you're young and you literally have zero credit because there has to be a first financial institution or creditor that's willing to be that first for you, especially if you have no credit whatsoever for them to base their risk assessment on for you.

(10:38):But there are some little tricks, I guess. I've had conversations with borrowers over many years. How do you get your children started? Well, I would say bar none, the easiest way to get somebody started is to add a son or a daughter as a signer on a credit card, for example. They don't necessarily even have to physically have a card and be using that card, but it at least injects some credit life into their history and it will provide them instant history. If I add a signer to a credit card I've had open for five years, it's going to show up as a five-year credit line for my son or my daughter.

 

(11:26):That's a quick way to insert a little bit of a credit history and maybe get some instant scores to pop up, and that will make additional credit inquiries a little bit easier for those younger people.

Phil Young (11:39):Yeah. And one of the ways, I think when I was a youngster, I was, I think, ending high school and I think I got a $500 limit credit card and I used it for gas. Super simple. And that kind of got me started on my credit journey. And then when I went to college, I just constantly used it and paid it off every month and that got me down my way.

Matt Gray (12:02):Yep. And that's what we share. I mean, you guys are lenders as well, so that's kind of how we share it with people. Use something that makes sense, be budget-minded, use it for gas, use it for groceries, things that you need, needs not haves. Those are all good ways to get started.

(12:22):But you’ve got to start small and if you don't have a parent or someone willing to do something like add you as a signer, then the best way for you to do something like that is to start small with a consumer credit card that has, maybe they give you a $250 credit limit. A lot of us have been there and done that and you have to start somewhere. So you just slowly start to build that and make sure the less credit you have established, the more important it becomes to take care of it because you don't have other debts and other trade lines to pull you up out of a missed payment or something of that nature.

Phil Young (13:05):And I think, yeah, it's kind of nice to have when you're young like that. It's nice to have it and have that low limit. It's a little bit of a guardrail. That temptation’s not there to be like, "What can I go buy at Best Buy? What expensive sound system?" And so it's like, "I only have $250 to spend." You know?

Matt Gray (13:23):Right. There's not much there.

Phil Young (13:25):So your mistake can only go to $250.

Matt Gray (13:27):Right. Well, which will lead into a couple of things I know we want to talk about here about credit scores. But while we're focusing on credit life being young and where your credit score is, what's all involved there, I printed out some interesting information about FICO scores by generation, so I thought this was interesting.

(13:49):So in 2022, as of the end of 2022, Gen Z, which is 18 to 25 year olds, had an average FICO score of 679. Millennials, 26 to 41, 687 is the average credit score. Gen X 42 to 57 years old, 706. Baby boomers, which is 58 to 76, 742. The silent generation is 77-plus and 760 is the average credit score for that range.

 

(14:26):So I mean, I think that's interesting. My opinion is it probably has less to do with the generation you are in than just a snapshot of where you were at in your credit life. The older you get, the wiser you become, you don't make mistakes that maybe you made when you were younger, things of that nature. But I'm sure within these age ranges, these folks are spending their money and time on very different things as well.

Phil Young (14:53):Exactly.

Libby Wixtead (14:53):Yeah.

Matt Gray (14:54):So like you said, the boombox or the stereo system or whatever.

Phil Young (15:01):Yeah, right. That might show my age, I don't know.

Matt Gray (15:03):Yeah, yeah.

Phil Young (15:03):He wouldn't spend money on that anymore but…

Libby Wixtead (15:03):Do they even make boomboxes anymore?

Matt Gray (15:10):Yeah, right. I was wondering about that too.

Phil Young (15:12):Like, who would spend money on that?

Libby Wixtead (15:14):Well, I guess going along with talking about what's good credit scores and those averages are kind of surprising to me a little bit. I thought they would be a little bit higher for the millennials and Gen X to be honest. How are the credit scores calculated then? We've talked about building. Now how is it calculated and what impacts that credit score?

Matt Gray (15:35):Yep, sure. Well, there's a number of things. If you just stop and think about what are people watching? What are these creditors watching me do with my credit line and how I'm taking care of it and being responsible? It's things that would come to your mind pretty quickly, but as a percentage of the whole pie, imagine a graph or a pie chart and with some percentages, the big fish is the payment history. You have to make your payments, you have to make timely payments. So that's a big chunk of it.

 

(16:16):Secondly is the amount you owe on debt. So they're going to take that into consideration with revolving accounts, especially where you are being given a credit line, a maximum credit line on which you can borrow from, which are, it's going to be credit cards, it's going to be home equity lines of credit, any type of revolving account that you can borrow from, payback, and it remains open for you to use.

 

(16:47):The thing about that type of debt is you really want to watch where you keep that proportional balance to your limit because if you get over 30% of that limit they set for you, the credit score models are going to start to ding you points. And that's where you can run into trouble. Most people don't realize that. And I have that conversation with folks more than probably any other conversation about how to improve your credit scores. Why are my credit scores in this range? That's probably the biggest one that comes up.

 

(17:27):But to fill out the rest of this pie here, the length of your credit history is 15%, makes up 15% of the total. Types of credit, meaning do you have three revolving accounts? Do you have two installment loans? Do you have a mortgage debt? All of those different types of debt hold different weight in terms of how they model and come up with your credit score. So types of credit there would be 10% of that pie. And then new credit, establishing new credit would be another 10% of that total.

 

(18:03):So all of those different categories make up how they're looking at you as a credit risk. Let's just call you a credit risk because that's truly what your credit score is supposed to be indicative of.

Phil Young (18:17):Yeah, it's interesting because you think about, you talked about revolving lines and somebody could be making payments on that, but they may be at 70% of their revolving balance where it's like in your head, you're like, "I'm doing the good thing. I'm making my payments and stuff. I'm making maybe that minimum payment," but you're saying maybe because that sustained balance is higher than 30%.  It's almost kind of a negative impact on their credit score.

Matt Gray (18:40):Yes. And a lot of times, younger folks really have to watch out for that because when they open up, early on, when they open up credit cards, they're normally being given a pretty small credit limit. It doesn't take much to spend money these days. And before you know it, let's say you're given a $1,000 credit limit and all of a sudden you go buy something for $500, you're above that 30% mark.

 

(19:11):So you really got to watch where that balance... A lot of people don't even realize where that credit limit is set at. I talk to a lot of people where they have no idea. So it's not a bad idea to pull out your statement, look at where your limit is set at, and just a little trick that if you're always hovering over that 30% mark and it's not so much that you're being negligent with your credit, it's just so much that you didn't really realize it, a quick way to remedy that might be to call up that creditor and say, "Hey, can we raise this limit?" Assess where you're at in your life. If you can manage that debt and manage it well, I would probably say you might want to look at all your credit limits, see where they're set, see if they're appropriate for your spending, and maybe that's a quick way to divert that whole over 30% thing and get your credit a little bit better today.

Phil Young (20:14):Okay, interesting.

Libby Wixtead (20:14):Or I think it's almost realizing, okay, am I spending outside of where I need to be too? Like you said, if it's appropriate for where you're at, maybe I am spending, putting too much on my credit card and not realizing, okay, I need to back it off just a little bit and just control my spending. But like you said, today it's so easy. You go to a grocery store and it's so easy to spend a lot more than what we've been used to.

Phil Young (20:40):For sure.

Matt Gray (20:41):Yeah.

Phil Young (20:42):So when I go through the loan process with my borrowers, and if it's a new borrower or a younger borrower, I get to the point where I explain the process and one of those is obviously pulling credit, and one of the concerns on their face they've heard is, hey, if you pull this, is it going to shoot my credit score down? And I feel like I have that conversation a lot.

 

(21:02):Can you speak to that? When you pull it, does it affect your credit score?

Matt Gray (21:06):You and me both. I get that probably on at least 50% of the people I work with. I feel like that's what people believe. That's what they've been led to believe.

(21:18):Here's what we've been told. You have a window, based on your credit pull type, and I'll dive into that here in just a minute, you have a window of anywhere from 14 to 45 days. So meaning, if you are coming to one of our offices and applying for a mortgage loan, your credit is pulled. First and foremost, the credit bureaus know, based on the report type, that you're applying for a mortgage loan. It's a mortgage-driven credit report. So based on that pull type, you're going to be given a 14 to a 45-day window to shop. As a consumer, you're given that right without having to worry about any credit score decreases or anything of that nature.

 

(22:16):And that's important because that's what all these consumer laws are all about. They're about trying to level the playing field for consumers and put the advantage on their side versus lenders. So it's to your benefit to go out and shop and you don't have to worry about anything else other than just making the correct and best decision for your situation. So that's to answer that question.

 

(22:45):Now, I tell people within that, you also don't want to just go crazy. Obviously, if you're going to every corner in every bank and let's say you're striking out because you have a borderline credit score, you might throw up some red flags. If you're just calling anybody to see who's going to give you a shot, then don't be surprised if your credit score goes down if you go to seven different lenders within a week, or call people on the phone, Rocket Mortgage, whatever.

 

(23:24):So you’ve got to be careful, but I tell people, it's not really a tit-for-tat thing. It's not, you get your credit score pulled today, your score goes down two points tomorrow. It just doesn't work like that, but a lot of people do believe that that's the way it works.

Phil Young (23:43):And the terminology hard pull and soft pull, can you speak to that on a CBI score?

Matt Gray (23:49):Yeah, sure. So a hard pull is going to be something where you actually applied for a loan. Whether you're sitting in front of your dealer at the Chevy store and talking about getting a loan through them to purchase your next vehicle or whether you're sitting in front of one of us here at AgCredit, those are hard pull inquiries. We're pulling a hard credit report on you, a full picture of what's going on. And those credit reports are driven and modeled differently depending on what you're doing. But if you're applying, if you're physically applying for something, you might as well just know that that's going to be a hard pull.

 

(24:37):Now, if you're getting stuff in the mail, pre-approved credit cards or somebody's rechecking and doing a credit assessment on you because you're a current customer of theirs, all those things that kind of happen in the backend that you don't know about, those are considered soft pulls. A lot of times, you won't even know about them and they're not going to affect you. They can't affect you.

 

(25:04):Yeah, there's a difference. But the main difference is if you're actively applying for a loan, just consider it being a hard pull.

 

Voiceover (25:19):Already have a nice low rate on your first mortgage loan? Looking for a way to use the equity in your home for improvements to your property without losing that nice low rate? AgCredit offers a fixed rate, fixed payment, second mortgage loan with a term of up to 10 years. Building a pole barn or making home improvements? For more information on where to get started, go to www.agcredit.net or call your local AgCredit today.

Libby Wixtead (25:48):So if we are not applying for a loan, if we are just trying to see if our credit... What is our credit score? If we've never even looked it up, how do we know if what's on there is correct? And also, where can we even go to find a report?

Matt Gray (26:07):Yes. So every citizen in the United States is provided a free credit report free of charge at annualcreditreport.com. And if you're like me, the first time I ever did this, I mean, it's been years ago, but I'm one of those guys that just doesn't trust websites. And these days, you have to be skeptical about different websites. You can get your identity stolen, things of that nature.

 

(26:39):So if you go to the Department of Commerce's website, you will find a link to annualcreditreport.com, and then you'll know it's legit. You won't have to worry about whether it's a fictitious website, anything like that, because there are several that are worded very similarly. And you'll find, if you click on the wrong one, they'll prompt to collect a payment from you for said credit report. And not that it's not a legit credit report, it may be, but if you want your free one, a legit credit report free of charge annually, you can have one annually, just go to that website and you should be able to pull it up.

 

(27:25):Now, I will say this, when you get on there to pull that, your free credit report will not include credit scores. It will only be credit history. If you want your scores, the last time I checked anyway, you can pay for that on that website. But by and large, this report is for you to fact check.

Phil Young (27:49):Kind of reconcile?

Matt Gray (27:50):Yes, credit lines that you have established, whether they're open, whether they're closed, how they're reporting. It's more for that purpose and that purpose alone.

Libby Wixtead (28:00):So if there is something that shows up that you're like, "I didn't do that," what can you do?

Matt Gray (28:08):Well, if there are things that you would like to, I guess, oppose with each individual bureau... Because here's what will happen sometimes. Not all three bureaus, you have Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion are the three depositories. Although in a perfect world, all three of those report the exact identical information for a borrower, that's not always what happens. Sometimes a creditor chooses to only report to Equifax or only Experian or only TransUnion. And what happens is you end up with a discrepancy and as a result of those reporting differences, a lot of times that's where you'll end up with the varying scores.

(28:57):Your scores, your three scores should be similar. And so you're going to have three scores on what we call a tri-merge credit report. And that's when we're pulling all three bureaus into one report and you're going to have three different scores for Equifax, Experian, TransUnion. And typically, at least in our world, our mortgage lending world, we're going to use the middle score, the mid-range score of those three to, I guess, grade you and use that score as the basis.

Phil Young (29:29):At least the credit reports I've seen, I think if you have questions on, "Hey, I don't even know what this thing is, this account," is there... I think I've seen phone numbers or something at the bottom that you were like, "Hey, this creditor, you can contact them directly here." You're not having to hunt and peck and try to figure out who in the world this is.

Matt Gray (29:46):Yes. So in our reports, there's normally a back page that has all the creditors, their addresses, their phone numbers. Now granted, I've seen some that have bits and pieces of information where it's still really hard to get a hold of them. Collection agencies sometimes are very vague. They might have an address and that's about it. But normally, in the backend of a credit report, you're going to find all the contact information for any creditor that has shown up, even if it's a past closed account.

(30:19):So yeah, a good way to get in touch though, if you're wanting to challenge maybe a miscalculated debt or something of that nature, each depository, TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian, each of those three are going to have their own websites. And I know that you can challenge and open up cases through their websites. It's just as easy as going in and you have to plug in your information obviously to pull up your credit report through their website, but you can challenge.

 

(30:54):If you don't want to call them direct, which you can do, their phone numbers are on your credit reports as well, you can challenge them online. You can choose the trade line, you can choose it and put comments in there and submit it, and someone on the other end, their job is to identify it and do some legwork, make some phone calls to verify if the account from the creditor is being accurately reported. Okay?

 

(31:25):So if you want to dispute something, there's an easy way online to do it, but you can also always pick up the phone and call 800 numbers and get a hold of someone at TransUnion, Equifax, or Experian.

Phil Young (31:36):Okay. And you brought up a good point as far as playing what I call defense against your credit score. You've heard the term like a freeze, putting a freeze on your credit, or I have a lot of guys, when I do pull their credit, they'll text me and be like, "Hey, did you pull my credit?" It sounds like they have self-monitored.

(31:55):Can you speak to those things at all to kind of play defense against fraudulent stuff?

Matt Gray (32:00):Yeah. I'm seeing that more and more where folks have credit freezes. Most of those folks will let you know upfront. And then there's going to be other folks that maybe got it free for some reason for a certain period of time, and you go to pull their credit report and it doesn't pull, and you’ve got to call a borrower back and say, "Hey, what's up? Do you have a credit freeze? I can't seem to get a copy of your report." Those are all good things. I'd never deter someone from doing that.

(32:27):Just know what you have, through what service it is because I find so many times that people just really have no idea. And those are the surprising ones. You run into somebody who had no idea they had a credit freeze and for how long it's going to be on there, and at some point, they're going to have to remove it if they want to apply for credit. But those are all good things to defend yourself against some of the unscrupulous things that happens with identity theft and things of that nature.

 

(33:02):And then you've got just as many that they are alerted, they get an email or a text or something like that when somebody pulls their credit, which I think is great. I mean, I'd want to know.

 

(33:13):I want to touch on something else here. We talked about how all these credit reports are purpose-driven. We have a mortgage lending credit report. When you go to purchase a vehicle, they're going to pull a different type of credit report. Same thing with revolving debt and credit card companies. They're going to pull probably an abbreviated type of report. I get this a lot, probably more than any other question nowadays with the emergence of Credit Karma and things like that on your phone.

 

(33:47):Almost everybody I talk to, especially younger applicants these days, they come in and they have an idea what their credit score is already because they're constantly watching it on their phone through whether it's a free app like Credit Karma or a paid app. I'm sure there's paid versions of it, but things like that, there's many different ones.

 

(34:10):But this is what I get a lot. I will pull a credit report, share the score information with folks, and they're always astonished that the scores that we come up with are very different than what they see on their phone on Credit Karma. And so I'm having the conversation frequently to explain to them, well, all credit reports are not created equal. And the best way for me to explain this to you is that the type of credit report and score model that you're looking at, it's for your eyes only. It's a consumer credit-type of report for your eyes only. We're looking at something very different where the weighted factors are different. When we pull a credit report, they're weighing different factors in that pie that we discussed, and that's why our credit scores are different.

 

(35:08):If you ever get somebody in your office that has that type of question, I run into that a lot. Now, I think Credit Karma and that stuff's great, but what I tell people is, look, don't stop using Credit Karma. It's still a great tool to watch and monitor for trends. So what I mean by that is if your trend on your Credit Karma is going up or going down, then there's a pretty good chance when I pull your credit report, that trend is probably-

Phil Young (35:41):The coordination's going to be there, yeah.

Matt Gray (35:43):Yes. It's still going the same way. Now, are the scores going to be identical? They're not going to be, but at least you have some type of a finger on the pulse of your credit, and you're not just living life not in the know about your credit. I think it's a great thing people are more in tune to their credit nowadays since it's such an important thing.

Phil Young (36:03):Nice.

Libby Wixtead (36:03):So I guess with people being in tune to their credit, would somebody that... I guess I should ask this question a little differently. Is no credit versus bad credit, which one would you say is better?

Matt Gray (36:20):Well, it depends on what lender you're talking to there, but if you're talking to me, I will take a young person, well, it could be an older person too. I mean, have older persons that have applied that have no credit rating either. But I'll take no credit scores over bad credit scores any day of the week. And here's why.

(36:47):In most cases, if you've got someone that is young, maybe they're just out of college, maybe they're just entering their first major career and they had no use for credit in their previous life, and they come in and they have zero credit, maybe they always paid on cash basis, mom, dad, helping them through college, whatever the case may be, we know enough through our background checks and employment history and current job verification that we're going to be okay on that piece of it.

 

(37:22):So in most cases, we're willing to take a chance on a credit risk like that versus looking at someone that's maybe the same age, maybe the same situation all the way around, yet they did have four years credit established and it's just a mess. Maybe just you can tell by just peeking at the credit history quickly, nothing was ever paid on time. Maybe they just have a bunch of bad debt, just has nothing but adverse credit history.

 

(37:55):So you can't expect a lender or someone who's looking at the possibility of extending credit to you, that's usually all they know you by and all they're going to judge you by is your past because that's all we can see. So if you have a bunch of bad debt, our main question is how is this individual going to pay our debt back? And are they capable? Are they responsible enough? And so that's why I'll take no credit over bad credit any day of the week.

Libby Wixtead (38:27):So let me, I guess, take this a little bit further then too on the bad credit piece. Let's say somebody hadn't got a credit card like we were telling them, went to college, had a lot of fun in college, and then now they're wanting to settle down. They're wanting to buy a home, start a family, whatever, how long does that history stay on a credit report?

Matt Gray (38:54):You're talking bad history?

Libby Wixtead (38:56):Well, either/or. Good history or bad history.

Matt Gray (39:00):It'll stay on there for a while.

Libby Wixtead (39:03):I guess it depends how bad it is.

Matt Gray (39:05):Yeah, it depends. I've seen adverse credit history stick around for years. A lot of times after seven years, if something's dormant, closed years prior, it'll fall off. But here's the thing about bad debt and debts that have gone bad is the way that the collection accounts and collection agencies work nowadays, they resell that collection debt. And you could have a collection that was, let's say for example, six years old and the collection agency just never had any luck collecting on that debt. They will turn around and sell that collection to another debt collector and that trade line is renewed.

(39:58):So I tell people that are waiting for year seven or waiting for that milestone for things to fall off to just don't get your hopes up. Be proactive. Try to clean it up yourself. That way you can get over this because when you've got something out there on your credit report that you just let linger, it's always going to put a ceiling on what you're capable of in terms of the type of financial options you're going to be offered.

 

(40:32):So yeah, I'm not very trusting of these collection agencies and how that whole dynamic works nowadays.

Phil Young (40:44):Yeah. And I've had, when I've pulled credit before, seen... And typically if I see a collection account, it's nothing significant. It's $150 or $50 bucks. And usually when I bring it up to people, they're like, "I paid that off a long time ago and it just never got taken off," or they had no idea about it and they've never been notified. And so it's just a good... Because it's like an anchor, the longer you don't know about it, it's just going to continue to drag you down.

(41:14):And so it always, again, it kind of reinforces check it annually to make sure nothing sneaks on there.

Matt Gray (41:20):Yeah. That's another point though that you make. When you have small debts like that that just creep up and become collections... Medical collections are probably the most common things we see.

Phil Young (41:30):That's a typical one, yep.

Matt Gray (41:31):And you're right. What you see is they're just normally measly, small, like this isn't even worth it, right? But the thing most people don't do, many people will fix that and pay those off. That's another thing with collection agencies is they're not great about following through. Once they get paid, something has to happen on that end too for your credit report to be cleaned up. And so just make sure you're diligent in following through and watching your credit report to make sure those dates get updated and things get marked as being paid off and settled and stuff like that. Otherwise, you're just leaving your fate up to someone else sitting behind a desk at a collection agency.

Libby Wixtead (42:21):Okay. So all in all, I guess we just need to have everybody pay their debts and be very proactive with your credit and use that annualcreditreport.com and just watch what you guys are doing.

(42:36):Matt, we really thank you for being on our podcast, your second time here. So that's awesome.

Phil Young (42:44):Libby's going to, if you have your punch card, she's going to punch your card.

Matt Gray (42:50):Oh yeah, oh.

Libby Wixtead (42:50):Well, I think Phil said if you get on here five times, you may get a jacket.

Matt Gray (42:52):Oh, wow.

Libby Wixtead (42:53):So there you go. We'll challenge you to that, Matt.

Matt Gray (42:57):Okay. I'm up for it.

Libby Wixtead (42:59):Well, everybody, thanks for joining us today. Remember to subscribe and you'll be notified every time there is a new episode of AgCredit Said It. You can also visit us at agcredit.net and follow us on all social media platforms. See you next time on AgCredit Said It.

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