Expert Q&A

Specialty credit reports: Where to obtain the free ones


Specialty credit bureaus collect consumer data on such things as rental history, insurance claims and checking accounts, and they’re required to provide consumers a free report annually

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Question for the expert

Dear Credit Care,
Is paying the whole balance of a credit card better than the recommended “30 percent balance-to-limit ratio” that the credit bureaus talk about? Also, can landlords set up a system to report their tenants to the credit bureaus? Thanks! — Alex


Answer for the expert

Dear Alex,
To answer your question about your credit card, not carrying a balance at all is best for your credit score. However, if you do carry a balance, be sure to keep the balance below 30 percent of your total credit limit.

Something that consumers sometimes miss is that using the account each month and paying off the balance adds positive information to your report that helps boost your score. If you aren’t using the account, even if it has no balance, it is not helping your credit score as much. Also, if you have multiple credit card accounts, you need to keep in mind your balances and total credit limit on all accounts when figuring your ratio of credit available to credit used.

The answer to your second question is yes, many landlords report rental history to credit bureaus, but probably not to one of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) to which I believe you are referring. Specialty credit bureaus collect and report consumer data on many things including: rental history; medical tests, conditions and other medical information; insurance claims; employment and checking accounts. You may be interested to know that the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that these specialty bureaus provide consumers with a free annual report just as the three major credit bureaus must. Tracking down these reports is not as simple, but you are entitled to the reports if you want to view them.

The major specialty bureau contact information is listed below. If you have been denied a lease, had an increase in insurance premium based on a credit report or had any other adverse action taken against you, request that the company provide you the name of the bureau whose credit report they viewed to make their decision and then contact that bureau to get a copy of your credit report.

BureauType of dataPhone number
LexisNexis (owner of Choicepoint, creator of the CLUE Report)Auto and home insurance(866) 312-8076
Medical Information BureauMedical information(866) 692-6901
CoreLogic SafeRentRental history(877) 448-5732
Telecheck Checking account history(800) 835-3243
ChexSystems Checking account history(800) 428-9623

One of the major credit bureaus, Experian, announced in January 2011 that it started reporting positive rental payment histories on its consumer credit reports. The addition of the rental payment history allows consumers to add positive information to their credit reports with the added bonus of possibly increasing their credit scores. If boosting your credit score is why you are interested in having your rental history reported, you might request that your landlord report your information to Experian RentBureau.

Keep in mind that Experian is only listing positive rental history on its reports now, but negative rental information could find its way onto your credit reports if you owe a landlord and they have sent your rental account to a collection agency.

Handle your credit with care!

See related:Get the really free credit reports, 10 things you must know about credit reports, FICO 5: the basic elements of a credit score

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