5 Things You Must Pay Attention to on Your Credit Report For College Students In 2021
After the COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the world last year, college students were left struggling both financially and emotionally. Currently, almost half of those asked said that they’re experiencing high levels of emotional distress and worry. If you’re a college student and one of your biggest worries is how you’ll navigate your finances this year, we’ve got resources for you!
First, check out our blog on how to file your taxes as a college student. That should help you get through Tax Season 2021 at least. Then, check out this guide regarding what you should be looking out for when checking your credit report (which you can get for free, by the way). We’re here to help you navigate finances so that it’s one less thing you have to worry about.
How to Get a Free Annual Credit Report as a College Student
First thing’s first, how do you get a free annual credit report as a college student? You actually don’t have to be a student to qualify for a free credit report. The three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian) offer one free credit report every 12 months.
While they all have slightly different scoring and reporting methods, you can get one from Experian in March, for example, and then get your free annual credit report from TransUnion in a few months to check for any updates and access your Equifax report later in this year. This way, you never have to pay for a report.
Do keep in mind that using a credit monitoring app like Float is a great way to check your score consistently and what’s affecting it (late payments, high credit utilization ratio, etc.), but the only way to receive a full breakdown of your entire credit status is to look at your full credit report.
5 Things to Pay Attention to On Your Credit Report
1. Payment History
If you have accounts (and as a college student, you likely at least have loans), you’ll want to take a look at your full credit report to look at the payment history for each account. This is the biggest factor affecting your credit score, which means you’ll want to make sure it’s correct and that there aren’t missed payments reported on there that you didn’t actually miss.
2. Account Dates
The length of time that you’ve had accounts open for is another big factor that can influence your credit score. While most credit monitoring apps will show you this, be sure to check this on your free credit report, too. Make sure that the dates are correct and that there aren’t reports of accounts that you either don’t own or of accounts with wrong dates.
The longer your accounts are open, the better, as it shows that you have a long history of good credit behavior. So, if you check your report and see that your account history is pretty short, be sure to avoid closing any big accounts to avoid further shortening that history!
3. Identifying Information
While you can’t find all of this while using credit monitoring apps like Float or Mint, your personal information is on your full annual credit report. This includes your home address, your full name, and employer information. You’ll want to check to make sure that all of the information is correct, including your social security number, name, and employment information.
While employment information isn't absolutely necessary for you to check, if it’s inaccurate, it could affect how future employers view you down the road as a potential candidate for a job (yes, employers are allowed to view your credit report).
Whenever you apply for a credit card, that counts as a hard inquiry. However, any time any credit card company pre-approves you or performs a credit check before offering you a new card, that can also pop up as a soft inquiry. What you’re really looking for here when you check your credit report is for suspicious inquiries that might indicate fraud.
If you see an inquiry from you that you know you didn’t make, contact the credit reporting agency to let them know that you suspect fraud. They’ll be able to walk you through the necessary steps to ensure that your information is safe.
5. Public Records
One other thing that shows up on your credit report but not on credit monitoring apps are public records. Yep, your credit report shows whether or not you’ve filed bankruptcy (likely not an issue as a college student) or were part of a civil suit.
Just check this section so that you know what’s on there. If you were part of a civil suit that shows up on your credit report, that’s nice to know so that you can explain it to future employers or landlords who check your report.
Stay On Top of Your Finances
Aside from monitoring your credit score and your credit report regularly (remember, you get one free annual credit report from each credit monitoring agency every 12 months; that’s a total of 3 per year), you’ll need to learn how to stay on top of other areas of your finances while you’re still in school.
One way to do this is to get a good budgeting app, learn how to budget, and then watch your spending and saving habits. Analyzing how you spend and save is one of the easiest ways to see where you can improve.
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Need more help saving as a college student? Our Cashback Program has also gone live! Check it out and see where you can save more money before summer break is here. And, don’t forget to sign up for your Cheese Debit Card here.