Is It Illegal To Check Someone Else’s Credit Report?

Is It Illegal To Check Someone Else’s Credit Report?

Yes, in most cases it’s illegal to check someone else’s credit report. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is a federal statute that defines and limits who can receive credit-related information. The act lists legal reasons why someone’s credit can be checked; therefore, it is illegal for an individual or organization to check someone’s credit report for any other purpose.

We’ll do a deep dive into when it’s OK to run a credit check on someone, and what to do if you suspect someone has pulled your credit report without permission.

Can Anyone Check Your Credit?

The short answer is no. Legally speaking, a person or organization can check your credit only under certain circumstances. Someone either needs to have what’s called “permissible purpose” or have your permission and cooperation in the process for the credit check to be considered legal.

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Who Can Access Your Credit Report?

People and organizations that can legally access your credit report under certain circumstances include the following:

•   Banks and other lenders

•   Utility companies

•   Insurance companies

•   Landlords

•   Employers

•   Here’s more about each

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Banks and Other Lenders

A financial institute can check someone’s credit in connection with credit-related transactions, such as when they apply for a mortgage or car loan. Note that section 609(g) of the FCRA requires financial institutions that arrange mortgage loans and use credit scores in their decision making to provide the credit score and additional information to the applicant.

Recommended: What Credit Score is Needed to Buy a Car

Utility Companies

Although it may not be commonly thought of in this way, applying for utility service is a form of credit. So when someone requests service from an electric company, the utility will likely check the person’s credit history. If the individual doesn’t have at least a fair credit score, the company can request a deposit or even deny service.

Recommended: Understanding Credit Score Rating Scales

Insurance Companies

Insurance companies have permission to review an applicant’s credit information. Note that companies must also comply with state laws as they use the credit data to underwrite policies.

Landlords

The Federal Trade Commission notes that landlords have the right to review consumer credit reports when someone applies to rent from them or renews a lease. A landlord must certify to the credit bureau (such as Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion) that they will only use this information for rental purposes.

Employers

A potential employer can check an applicant’s credit report, although the company must give the applicant notice of their intent and get written permission. State laws vary regarding an employer’s ability to use this information as part of a hiring decision.

When Is It Legal To Run a Credit Report on Someone?

There are a handful of legal reasons to run a credit report on someone.

Permissible Purpose

This umbrella term used in the FCRA describes when a credit reporting agency can provide a credit report.

Proxy Ordering

“Proxy” is a legal term for someone with the authority to represent someone else. The only instance that isn’t proxy ordering is when a consumer requests their own credit report.

To pull your report, a proxy will need to get answers to questions that only you should know — information that comes directly from your credit report. This provides an extra layer of protection to ensure that your permission is freely being given.

Deceased Spouse

An individual can send a letter to a credit agency requesting the credit report of a deceased spouse. The surviving spouse will need to provide information about both parties so that the agency can verify identities and ensure that it’s OK to provide the credit report.

During Mortgage Underwriting

The FCRA notes that a financial institution can obtain a credit report for “extending, reviewing, and collecting credit.” This applies to mortgage underwriting as well as other types of loans.

Screening Job Applicants

With permission, an employer can request and review a credit report for the purpose of “evaluating a consumer for employment, promotion, reassignment or retention as an employee.”

During Insurance Underwriting

An insurance company can check a person’s credit report, with permission, as part of the underwriting process for a policy. The FCRA delves into specifics for different types of insurance: life, health, homeowners, etc.

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Evaluating Prospective Tenants

The FCRA states that a potential landlord can pull a credit report with the prospective tenant’s permission.

Court-Appointed Guardians

Court-appointed guardians can request a copy of their ward’s credit report by mail. They must provide information about themselves as well as the ward.

What To Do if Someone Pulls Your Credit Without Permission

Contact the organization that pulled your credit to rule out that it was done in error. Then contact the three credit bureaus and request that any hard credit inquiries be deleted from your credit report.

You can also submit a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (visit https://www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/) and ask for any problems associated with the inquiry to be resolved.

Who Can Check Your Credit Without Permission?

Government agencies may check your credit report to process an application for a license, to determine if you qualify for public assistance, or to calculate what a person can pay in child support, among other reasons.

If you already receive credit from a company, it may periodically check your credit report. Language giving them permission is likely in their terms and conditions. Debt collectors may also get access to information on credit reports.

How To Know if Your Credit Was Checked

All hard inquiries will appear on your credit report for two years, so you can find the information there. Soft checks may or may not appear. Each year, you can get a free copy of your credit report — and find out your credit score for free — via AnnualCreditReport.com.

If you’re concerned about credit checks, consider signing up for a credit monitoring service. What qualifies as credit monitoring varies from service to service; look for one that sends out alerts for new hard inquiries.

Recommended: What Is a Tri-Merge Credit Report?

How a Credit Check Affects Your Credit Score

A soft inquiry will not hurt your credit score even if it appears on your report. A hard inquiry can lower the score by up to five points. Although the inquiry will remain on your credit report for two years, it will stop affecting your credit score after 12 months. Applying for several credit accounts in a relatively short amount of time may pose a greater risk. (Find out more about what affects your credit score.)

Recommended: What is The Difference Between Transunion and Equifax

Can You Stop Someone From Getting Your Credit Report?

You can freeze your credit at all three bureaus, which will prevent them from sharing information with businesses that make inquiries. However, if you want to apply for a loan or otherwise conduct a transaction that requires a credit check, you will need to unfreeze your credit.

The Takeaway

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) provides legal guidelines on who can and can’t check consumer credit reports. Certain individuals can check your credit with your permission, including landlords and employers. Banks, insurers, lenders, and utility companies may also pull a credit report if you’ve applied for credit or service with them. In some circumstances, government agencies may request your credit report without your permission. In general, an average citizen cannot check someone else’s credit report unless they are serving as a legal proxy.

The SoFi Relay money tracker app makes it easy to manage your money. Benefit from spending breakdowns, free credit monitoring, financial insights, and much more — all in one place.

Know where you stand, what you spend, and how to hit financial goals.

FAQ

Can I sue for an unauthorized credit check?

Consult an attorney to discuss potential legal remedies. If you discover that your credit was run inappropriately without your permission, contact all three credit bureaus to ask them to remove the inquiry so that it doesn’t harm your credit score. You can also file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau at https://www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint/

What is a violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act?

There are multiple types of FCRA violations. They include instances when a credit bureau provides your information to someone who is not authorized to receive it, didn’t demonstrate a valid need for the data, or didn’t get your written permission in advance.

How do I find out who ran my credit?

You can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three bureaus annually at AnnualCreditReport.com. Your credit report lists all hard credit inquiries from the past two years, and potentially some soft inquiries.


Photo credit: iStock/vitapix

SoFi’s Relay tool offers users the ability to connect both in-house accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score provided to you is a Vantage Score® based on TransUnion™ (the “Processing Agent”) data.
*Terms and conditions apply. (Must click on the link to be eligible.) This offer is only available to new SoFi users without existing SoFi accounts. It is non-transferable. One offer per person. To receive the Rewards points offer, you must successfully complete setting up Credit Score Monitoring. Rewards points may only be redeemed into SoFi accounts such as cash in SoFi Checking and Savings or loan balances, Stock Bits, fractional shares and cryptocurrency subject to program terms that may be found here: SoFi Member Rewards Terms and Conditions. SoFi reserves the right to modify or discontinue this offer at any time without notice.
Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.
Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s
website
.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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Identity Theft and Credit Card Fraud Statistics: 33 Eye-Openers

Identity Theft and Credit Card Fraud Statistics: 33 Eye-Openers

Judging from the latest statistics, the most lucrative work-from-home job in America may be Con Artist. Fraudsters are utilizing texts, social media, fake websites, apps, emails, and old-fashioned voice calls to separate Americans from their money — billions every year. They play on our greed, or charity, or desperation. And they take all forms of payment.

The best way to fight back against fraud is to be aware of current schemes so you don’t fall victim in the first place. Below we share the top eight financial shakedowns, with enough details to help you recognize red flags, and statistics that will blow your mind. Read on to learn how to avoid getting fleeced (and how to report it if you are).

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Identity Theft and Credit Card Fraud Trends

Cases of credit card fraud are skyrocketing: Schemes that target individual consumers rose more than 70% in 2021 over the previous year, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Almost 3 million consumers collectively lost more than $5.8 billion to fraud in 2021 alone.

What’s behind the increase? During the pandemic, more people took to shopping online, even for things like groceries. At the same time, the pandemic inspired scammers to promise vulnerable folks quick delivery of hard-to-find PPE. And other natural disasters — from fires in California to flooding in Kentucky — spawned fraudsters targeting charitable givers and even disaster victims looking for help with clean-up and repairs.

Scam text messages — no, that’s not the U.S. Post Office — have also spiked in recent years, adding to the flood of fraudulent messages. And finally, the rise of crypto seems to play a role: The FTC has warned consumers that no reputable utility or creditor will demand payment only in crypto.

If you’re a victim of credit card fraud, it’s important to report it ASAP. You can get your credit report and find out your credit score for free at AnnualCreditReport.com

Recommended: What Credit Score is Needed to Buy a Car

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Recommended: What is The Difference Between Transunion and Equifax

33 Identity Theft and Credit Card Fraud Stats

Below we do a deep dive into the most common types of fraud: imposters, online shopping scams, fake prizes and sweepstakes, false job opportunities, fictional charities, investment swindles, and more. All numbers quoted below are for the first half of 2022.

Educate yourself about other types of money scams too.

1 Imposters: Reports Filed

The total reports filed in this one category came to 361,735, with 22% of filers admitting losses. An imposter is a person who pretends to be someone else to steal your personal information or money. They might call, text, or email you and may pose as someone you know. (“I’m on vacation in London and lost my wallet! Can you send me some cash?”).

2 Imposters: Losses

The median loss suffered by victims was $1,000. The total dollar amount of imposter scam losses was $1.33 billion.

3 Imposters: Scenarios

The most common way imposters approached targets was via phone call, and victims paid via credit card.

4 Imposters: Top States Affected

Maryland led with 7,282 reports. Oregon and Washington followed close behind.

Recommended: What Is a Tri-Merge Credit Report?

5 Online Shopping: Reports Filed

Total reports filed came to 148,464, with 51% claiming losses. In an online shopping scam, someone pretends to have a legitimate business by creating a phony website or posting fake ads on a real retailer’s site.

(Another form of this fraud is when scammers create and post fake negative reviews of small businesses and then tell owners that they’ll remove the reviews in exchange for digital gift cards.)

6 Online Shopping: Losses

The median loss suffered by victims was $186. The total dollar amount of online shopping scam losses totaled $183.8 million.

7 Online Shopping: Scenarios

Victims are most often taken in by websites or apps — not surprising, given the nature of this fraud — and are asked to pay via gift card.

8 Online Shopping: Top States Affected

Delaware led with 516 reports. Colorado and Nevada placed second and third.

9 Prizes & Sweepstakes: Reports Filed

Total reports filed came to 43,214, with 16% reporting losses. “Great news!,” a voice over the phone gushes. “You’ve won money or valuable prizes!” All the winner needs to do is provide their bank account information or pay a processing fee.

10 Prizes & Sweepstakes: Losses

The median loss suffered by victims was $900. Total losses equaled $114.4 million.

11 Prizes & Sweepstakes: Scenarios

Phone calls are the most common contact method. Gift cards were the top payment type.

12 Prizes & Sweepstakes: Top States Affected

West Virginia topped the list with 388 reports. Wyoming and Alaska placed and showed.

13 Internet Services: Reports Filed

Total reports filed equaled 36,386, with 7% admitting losses. This category includes the use of fake messages or copycat sites — ostensibly from someone’s internet service provider — as part of a phishing or spoofing scam used to commit identity theft. It also includes theft of personal information: debit card PINs, credit card and bank account numbers, and passwords.

14 Internet Services: Losses

The median loss suffered was $300. Total losses came to $13.4 million.

15 Internet Services: Scenarios

Typically, individuals are contacted via social media and send money via payment app.

16 Internet Services: Top States Affected

Delaware was first in line with 130 reports. Nevada and Florida came close on its heels.

17 Job Opportunities: Reports Filed

Total reports filed were 44,609, with 31% reporting a loss. Scammers post genuine-looking want ads and business opportunities in print and online. The catch? There is no job. They just want your personal information and your money. As just one example, a “work-from-home career” starts after the target pays for training, certifications, and/or starter kits.

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18 Job Opportunities: Losses

Consumers experienced a median loss of $1,950. Total losses reached $163.9 million.

19 Job Opportunities: Scenarios

People are most often connected by text and pay the scammers via cryptocurrency.

20 Job Opportunities: Top States Affected

Nevada was again the top contender, with 475 reports. Maryland and Florida achieved second and third place.

21 Advance Payments: Reports Filed

Total reports came to 18,746, with 28% of them suffering a financial loss. Advance payments, as the name implies, refer to a consumer pre-paying for a service. Credit service businesses purport to sell information that will allow the consumer to create a new credit file — perhaps after an identity theft occurred.

22 Advance Payments: Losses

The median loss of each victim was $700. The total amount lost was $52.9 million.

23 Advance Payments: Scenarios

Fraudsters typically communicate with potential victims via websites and apps for this kind of scam, and request wire transfers to collect the money.

24 Advance Payments: Top States Affected

Georgia is number one this time, with 1259 reports. Nevada and Delaware follow as numbers two and three.

25 Fake Charities: Reports Files

Total reports came to 4,538, with 23% reporting a monetary loss. Scammers pretend to be from a real or fake charity and ask you to make a donation right then for, say, a natural disaster that just occured.

26 Fake Charities: Losses

The median loss was $450. The total amount lost was $10.1 million. Asking people to support a heartwarming cause has, unfortunately, been quite successful.

27 Fake Charities: Scenarios

Messages go out via social media, and have the potential to go viral. Scammers most often collect their money through a payment app.

28 Fake Charities: Top States Affected

Alaska led the way with 17 reports. Maine and Utah came in second and third place.

29 Investments: Reports Filed

Total reports came to 52,453, with 76% claiming a financial loss. With investment fraud, a scammer tries to get you to invest: in stocks, bonds, real estate, whatever. They may provide false information about a real investment or make something up entirely.

30 Investments: Losses

The median loss was $4,000. Total losses equaled $1.6 billion.

31 Investments: Scenarios

These so-called investment opportunities are described on social media platforms, with cryptocurrency being the top payment method.

32 Investments: Top States Affected

Nevada (again!) leads the way, with 451 reports. Washington and California trail behind in terms of percentage of population, but are way ahead in absolute numbers: Washingtonians filed 1,074 reports; Californians, 5,349 reports.

33 Bonus Stat: Tax Prep

A missing refund is one sign that someone else may have filed a fake tax return in your name. Here’s more information about what to do when you don’t receive a tax refund.

The FTC notes that 4,056 reports about tax preparation fraud were filed in the first half of 2022, with 12% of people reporting a monetary loss. The total loss was $800,000, with a median loss of $188.

How To Avoid Credit Card Fraud

As these numbers show, there are plenty of scammers out there. Here are some ways to protect yourself against money scammers:

•   Avoid using debit cards, which are directly connected to your bank account. Credit cards and payment apps tend to be safer. Check your banking and credit card statements regularly, watching for errors and suspicious charges.

•   If your bank offers free transaction alerts, sign up now. For example, you can get an alert whenever a large payment (you choose the number) hits your account. Find out more about different types of bank fraud.

•   If you get a call from a company asking for payment data or other personal information, hang up. If it’s a company you normally deal with, call them back directly to see if the call was genuine.

•   Use password protection on your smartphone and computer devices. Keep your browsers up-to-date, and use reputable anti-virus software downloaded from the app store (not an ad, email or website). Avoid using public WiFi.

•   Shop at reputable retailers only, including but not limited to the ones you use online. If you have questions about a store, check them out on the Better Business Bureau website.

•   When pumping gas or using an ATM, watch out for skimmers: devices that capture your account information for fraudulent purposes. If anything looks odd, let the establishment know.

•   Be cautious about clicking on links from unknown sources, checking to make sure that an email or text message really came from the place it claims and is a reputable organization.

•   Monitor your credit report and watch for inaccuracies. What qualifies as credit monitoring varies, so look for services that send alerts whenever something new hits your report.

How to Report Credit Card Fraud

The first step is to file a dispute with your credit card company. Then you can contact your police station or sheriff’s office. You can also report the fraud to your state’s attorney general (get their contact info from https://www.naag.org/find-my-ag/) You can also submit an online claim with the FTC at https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/#/

The Takeaway

Scammers are reaching out via text, social media, fake websites, apps, emails, and old-fashioned voice calls to separate you from your money. Their stories play on your greed, or charity, or desperation. And they take all forms of payment — but they especially like gift cards and crypto. By learning to recognize the top schemes, you can help protect yourself from getting swindled. More pro tips: Monitor your transactions, avoid using debit cards for purchases, and don’t ever give out your personal or financial info unless you’re 100% sure of who you’re dealing with.

You can help protect yourself with free credit monitoring from SoFi Relay. The SoFi Relay money tracker app allows you to manage all of your finances from one convenient dashboard. See the big picture while you’re fighting fraud with weekly credit report updates.

Know where you stand financially with SoFi Relay.

FAQ

What are some common credit card scams?

Scammers can be pretty creative. Phishing is when a con artist tries to get you to share personal info or credit card information on the phone, by email, or text. Fake online websites can be built to steal credit card info. Skimmers can be set up on ATMs and credit card readers. And people with ill intent can monitor public WiFi for credit card info. And these are just some of the types of financial fraud out there.

How do credit card scams happen?

Sometimes, your physical credit card can be stolen. More often, someone gets your credit card data without having the actual card. Identity thieves can also steal personal information, set up credit cards in your name, and start spending.

How can you spot credit card fraud?

As you monitor bank statements, credit card statements, and your credit report, you may spot information that just isn’t right. Although this isn’t always because of credit card fraud, that’s a common cause. Proactively investigate when something looks suspicious. You can also set up alerts with your bank to flag certain kinds of transactions.


Photo credit: iStock/SaskiaAcht

SoFi’s Relay tool offers users the ability to connect both in-house accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score provided to you is a Vantage Score® based on TransUnion™ (the “Processing Agent”) data.
*Terms and conditions apply. (Must click on the link to be eligible.) This offer is only available to new SoFi users without existing SoFi accounts. It is non-transferable. One offer per person. To receive the Rewards points offer, you must successfully complete setting up Credit Score Monitoring. Rewards points may only be redeemed into SoFi accounts such as cash in SoFi Checking and Savings or loan balances, Stock Bits, fractional shares and cryptocurrency subject to program terms that may be found here: SoFi Member Rewards Terms and Conditions. SoFi reserves the right to modify or discontinue this offer at any time without notice.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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How To Jump-start a Car and How Long It Make Take

How To Jump-Start a Car and How Long It May Take

Have you ever watched somebody pull out a set of jumper cables and thought, “I really should learn how to jump-start a car someday.”

It isn’t a difficult process. But to avoid damaging your car or hurting yourself, you should perform each step carefully, in the correct order, and with the right equipment.

By learning how to properly jump-start a car battery by yourself, you can save time, money, and hassle. In this guide, we’ll cover how to jump-start a car, how long it can take, and what you’ll need to get the job done.

How To Jump-start a Vehicle

Whether your battery is temporarily drained of power or truly dead, there are a few ways to get your car back on the road. The most important step is learning how before you’re stuck on the side of the road.

The most common method is to use a set of jumper cables and another car’s battery to give yours the charge it needs to get started. Or if you keep a portable jump-starter in your car, you may be able to give your battery a needed boost without anyone else’s help. And if you drive a car with a manual transmission, it might be possible to “pop the clutch” or “push-start” the car.

By the way, it helps if you have a good battery without a lot of corrosion on the posts. (A 12-volt battery typically lasts five to seven years. Batteries can deteriorate faster if you don’t drive much.) You may want to make checking the battery part of your routine to help save money on car maintenance.

Recommended: How Much Does Insurance Go Up After an Accident?

How To Jump-start a Vehicle with Jumper Cables

Before you try to jump-start any vehicle for the first time, it’s a good idea to read the owner’s manual, just in case there is anything you should know about that specific model. But the steps are basically the same no matter what you’re driving.

Get Out Your Jumper Cables

Jumper cables come in sets of two: The positive cable has red clamp at each end, and the negative cable has black clamps. You’ll need both cables to jump-start a car.

Jumper cables aren’t standard equipment with most vehicles, so you’ll have to purchase a set to keep in your trunk. You can purchase a new set for about $20-$40. You may want to keep a pair of gloves and safety glasses with the cables.

Get Another Car To Cozy Up Next to Yours

If you’re at home and you have a second car, you might even be able to do this by yourself. (Otherwise you’ll have to call a friend or flag down a Good Samaritan.) The two cars should be parked close enough that you can connect the cables without pulling them too tight, but leave enough room so you can move comfortably between the cars. Both cars should have their engine turned off and the emergency brake on.

Open the Hood on Each Car

Open the hood and locate the battery in each car. Then look for the negative and positive terminals on each battery. The positive terminal should have a plus sign (+) and/or a red cover. The negative terminal should have a minus sign (-) and/or a black cover.

Connect the Jumper Cables

Start with the dead-battery car. Attach one red clamp from the positive cable to the dead battery’s positive terminal. The clamp should “bite” through any corrosion and onto the metal terminal. If you have the black clamp of the other cable near the dead-battery car, be sure it isn’t touching any metal surfaces before you move over to attach both clamps to the booster (working) car.

Move over to the booster car. Attach the other red clamp from the positive cable to the positive terminal on the booster car’s battery. Then attach a black clamp from the negative cable to the booster battery’s negative terminal.

Go back to the dead-battery car. Attach the other black clamp from the negative cable to an unpainted metal surface on the engine. (You can look for an unpainted bolt or bracket that is several inches away from the battery.)

Check the cables to be sure they aren’t dangling or exposed to any moving parts in either vehicle.

Turn Off All Accessories

Before starting the booster car, check that all electronics are turned off in the dead-battery car. This includes hazard lights, the air conditioner or heater, radio, cell phone charger, etc.

Start the Booster Car

Put the booster car in park, start the engine, and let it idle for a few minutes. Don’t race the engine, but gently rev it to a bit above idle for 30 seconds or so to help the charge get to the dead battery. An older battery may take more time to charge.

Start the Dead-Battery Car

Try starting the car with the dead battery, and if it works, let it idle for several minutes. (Ask the driver of the other car to please wait while you do this.)

If the disabled car doesn’t start, disconnect the black clamp from the dead battery, check to make sure all your other connections are good, then replace the black clamp to the dead battery. Start the booster car again and let it idle for five minutes. Then try again to start the non-working car. If you repeat this process a couple of times and the car still won’t start, you may have to call for a tow truck.

Disconnect the Jumper Cables

Once the dead-battery car is running, you can disconnect the four clamps, working in reverse order. Be careful to remove the black clamp from the dead-battery car first, and keep it away from any metal and the other cable clamps while you work your way through the rest of the clamps. Then remove the black clamp from the working car, the red clamp from the good battery, and the red clamp from the dead battery.

Replace the plastic post protectors if either car has them. Keep fingers, clothing, and equipment away from any moving parts.

Keep the Dead-Battery Car’s Engine Running

Let the engine in the car you jump-started run for about 20 minutes so the alternator can recharge the battery. Drive somewhere safe (home or to a friend’s house, for example) before you shut off the car and try to start it up again.

If the car won’t start up again, you may have to get another jump-start or buy a new battery. You may even want to take the car straight to a mechanic to have the battery tested and, if necessary, replaced.

How To Jump-start a Car with a Portable Jump-starter Device

If you like the idea of being completely self-sufficient, you may want to purchase a portable jump-starter to keep in your car. The portable unit can take the place of a second vehicle when you need to charge your battery. Here’s how it works:

Confirm That the Unit’s Battery Is Charged

Before you stash the battery pack in your car, check that it has enough juice. Units typically plug into a common household outlet, and take an hour or longer to charge. Read the directions before you use the charger for the first time.

Attach the Cables

The unit will have two cables coming out of it: one with a red clamp and one with a black clamp. The unit and your car should be turned off. Then, with your car in park, attach the cable with the red clamp to the positive post on your car battery, and the cable with the black clamp to a bare metal area on the car. (Check your device’s directions for specifics.) Ensure that the unit won’t fall over or into the engine when you start the car.

Turn on the Power

When you’re ready, hit the power switch on the jump-starter device.

Start Your Car

Try to start your engine. If the problem is a dead battery, the engine should turn over.

Disconnect the Clamps

Just as you would when using jumper cables, let the car run above idle for a few minutes to help the battery charge. Then, with the car still running, turn off the power to the device and carefully disconnect the black and red clamps. Drive the car to a safe place or take it to a mechanic to have the battery tested.

To charge a motorcycle, the steps are pretty much the same if you’re using the portable jump-starter. It may be better for your bike than using a car battery, and easier than using another motorcycle. You also can try push-starting your motorcycle.

Recommended: How Much Does Insurance Go Up After an Accident?

How To Push Start a Manual Transmission

This method is sometimes called “bump starting,” “clutch starting,” or “popping the clutch.” The idea is to get the car moving fast enough (by going downhill, getting some helpers to push it, or pushing it bumper-to-bumper with another car) that you can put it in gear, quickly let out the clutch, and get the engine to turn over. (If you enjoy learning new terms, consider adding some car insurance terms to your repertoire.)

When you get a push, warn your helpers that the car may jerk a bit when you pop the clutch. If someone offers to use their car to push you, be sure you can do so without denting or scratching either car.

Recommended: How to Get Car Insurance

Get into Gear

Depress the clutch pedal and put the car into second gear.

Turn the Key Part Way

Turn the key one step to turn on the car, but not far enough to start the engine.

Get the Car Moving

If you’re at the top of the hill, you may be able to do this on your own, just by taking your foot off the brake and letting it roll. But you’ll likely need other people or another car to push your car. Keep the clutch pedal down.

Pop the Clutch

When the car is moving about 5 mph, quickly let your foot off the clutch pedal. The car may jerk a bit and the engine should turn over and start. If it doesn’t, you can try depressing and popping the clutch again while the car is still rolling.

Words of Caution Before Jump-starting Your Car

Once you learn how to do it, jump-starting your car can be fairly simple. But because there may be sparks, and batteries can explode, it’s always important to go through each step cautiously.

•   Do keep your face as far from the battery as you can while you’re attaching the cables.

•   Don’t let the clamps dangle near any metal while you’re attaching them. Don’t cross the cables when you’re attaching them to the batteries. Do keep the cables clear of the engine when you’re ready to start the cars.

•   Do avoid connecting all four clamps to battery posts. It’s safer to attach the black clamp to bare metal on the disabled car.

How Long Will It Take To Jump-start Your Car

Once you know the basics of jump-starting a battery, you can expect it to take 15 to 20 minutes. Of course, waiting until you find another motorist to help you could add to the overall time.

If you’re a first-timer, it may take longer than 20 minutes. But you can cut down that time just by knowing where your jumper cables are, and where your car battery and battery terminals are located. (Speaking of first-timers, new drivers may benefit from these car insurance tips for first-time drivers.)

Calling for Help

If you don’t feel comfortable jump-starting a car yourself, or don’t feel safe where you are, you can always call a pro for help when your battery dies. The jump-start or tow might even be free if you have a roadside assistance plan through your car insurance policy. Most plans include jump-starts as a basic service, but you should verify in advance what your coverage offers.

Recommended: How to Lower Car Insurance & Save Money

The Takeaway

Jump-starting a car isn’t that complicated, and it doesn’t take long — if you have the right equipment and know the proper steps. Still, it’s important to use caution as you go through the process to avoid hurting yourself or damaging your vehicle. The hardest part might be finding someone who will let you use their car for the jump (or give you a push, if you’re trying that method). And you’ll have to be in a spot where you can park two cars close enough together that you can use your jumper cables.

If you don’t want to — or can’t — jump-start your car, you may decide it’s easier and safer to call roadside assistance. You can purchase roadside assistance through an auto club, and many car insurance companies offer inexpensive plan options as part of their coverage. If you haven’t had a personal insurance planning session lately, this might be a good time to review your options.

If you’re looking for the best car insurance for your needs, SoFi can help you compare your current auto insurance policy to what other top insurers are offering. And SoFi can walk you through the whole research process.

Check out SoFi Protect to get real rates in real time, with no bait and switch.

FAQ

How long does it take to jump-start a car?

The process — attaching the cables, starting the cars and running both for a few minutes, then detaching the cables — should take just a few minutes. It’s a good idea, though, to keep the booster car around for a few minutes after that, just to be sure the boosted car keeps running and can get back on the road.

How long should you let a car run after you jump-start it?

You should let a car idle for several minutes after you jump-start it, to be sure you have a sufficient charge. After that, it’s important to let it keep running or drive it for at least 20 minutes so the battery can fully charge.

Can you jump-start a car alone?

It’s possible to jump-start a car alone if you’re home and have a second car handy to use as a booster car, or if you have a portable jump-starting device with you.


Photo credit: iStock/evrim ertik
Insurance not available in all states.
Gabi is a registered service mark of Gabi Personal Insurance Agency, Inc.
SoFi is compensated by Gabi for each customer who completes an application through the SoFi-Gabi partnership.

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How Much Does Paying Off a Car Loan Help Credit

Does Paying Off a Car Loan Help Your Credit?

The answer is more complex than you might think. Paying off a car loan can help your credit profile by reducing your debt-to-income ratio. But closing out a loan can also have several negative effects on your credit history. And paying off a loan early isn’t the best decision when there are better ways you can use that money — or save it for an emergency.

We’ll discuss how much paying off a car loan helps your credit, and when paying it off early really does pay off.

Recommended: Should I Sell My House Now or Wait

How Credit Scores Are Calculated

The fact that you got a car loan means you know a little something about your credit score. But it’s always helpful to learn more about how those scores are calculated. According to FICO® Score, your credit rating is made up of five parts:

•   Payment history (timely payments): 35%

•   Amounts owed (credit utilization): 30%

•   Length of credit history: 15%

•   New credit requests: 10%

•   Credit mix (installment versus revolving): 10%

Whether you’re applying for a personal loan or a car loan, the same factors are used to determine your creditworthiness.

Recommended: What Credit Score is Needed to Buy a Car

Check your score with SoFi Relay

Track your credit score for free. Sign up and get $10.*


Recommended: Pros and Cons of Refinancing a Car

Does Paying Off a Credit Card Help Your Credit?

For the sake of comparison, let’s say you buy a car with a credit card. (In real life, this is usually a bad idea because credit card interest rates are considerably higher than for auto loans.) How would paying off the credit card balance affect your credit score?

No matter what you’ve heard, maintaining a credit card balance doesn’t help your score. That’s because the amount you owe, also called credit utilization, accounts for 30% of your score. To calculate your credit utilization, add up the credit limits on your cards. Then divide that figure by your outstanding balance(s).

Let’s say your credit limit is $20,000. If you buy a used car for $10,000, you’re utilizing 50% of your available credit. So paying down your balance — or paying off the whole $20K — will boost your credit utilization factor.

But there’s a key difference between paying off a credit card and paying off a car loan. After you pay off the credit card balance, the account remains open (unless you take action to close it). This is called revolving credit: You can repeatedly use the funds up to your credit limit, as long as you continue to make payments.

Recommended: What is The Difference Between Transunion and Equifax

How Paying Off Your Car Loan Early May Affect Your Credit Score

A car loan is considered an installment loan, one with a starting balance that’s paid down each time you make a monthly payment. According to credit reporting agency Experian, paying off an installment loan can briefly cause your score to dip.

That’s because the loan is no longer “active,” so your timely payment history is no longer contributing to your overall credit score. Paying off an installment loan can also affect a person’s credit mix and the average age of their open accounts.

Recommended: What Credit Score Do You Need To Buy a Car?

How To Decide Whether To Pay Off Your Car Loan Early

There’s no one answer that fits every borrower. See which pros and cons below apply to your situation.

When It’s a Good Idea To Pay Off Your Car Loan Early

If any of these statements resonate with you, paying off your car loan early is likely the right decision.

•   You have trouble juggling your monthly bills and would be glad to have one fewer to deal with.

•   You hate the idea of continuing to pay interest on the loan.

•   The money you free up can be used to pay down another debt, add to your savings, or spend on pursuits you’re passionate about.

•   You’re considering taking out another loan, and paying off this one could help you qualify.

But wait! Check out the drawbacks to paying off a loan below before you decide.

When It’s Better To Keep the Loan

Even if you’re eager to pay down some debt, sometimes you’re better off financially keeping a loan. See if any of these disadvantages affects your cost-benefit analysis.

•   Instead of paying off the loan, investing the lump sum might net you more profits than you’ll save in loan interest.

•   If you’re using savings to pay off the loan, you may find yourself short in an emergency.

•   Some loans come with prepayment penalties. Make sure you won’t be charged for paying off your loan ahead of schedule.

•   As noted above, paying off an installment loan can have a negative impact on your credit mix, payment history, and length of credit history.

Recommended: Does Net Worth Include Home Equity

About To Make Your Last Scheduled Loan Payment?

Now is the perfect time to test how much paying off the loan will impact your credit score. You can find your credit score for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. Check your score before you make your final payment, and again a month or so later.

Or you can sign up for a service that monitors your credit score for you. What qualifies as credit score monitoring varies from service to service. Look for one that will alert you whenever your score changes.

You’ll also want to decide how you’re going to use those funds going forward. You may decide to pay off other debts (especially credit cards), build your savings, or invest the funds. A money tracker app can give you a helpful overview of your finances.

Paying off a car loan can sometimes lower your auto insurance premium. Check with your insurance carrier, and shop around to make sure you’re getting the best deal.

The Takeaway

The reality is that paying off a car loan may cause your credit score to dip. But it can still be the right decision if you have plenty of savings to cover the balance due. After all, you’ll save money on interest, lower your debt-to-income ratio, and have one fewer monthly bill to juggle. It depends on your financial circumstances, and if you have other, higher-interest debt that should be paid off first.

With SoFi Relay, you can manage your money while also benefiting from free credit monitoring. Connect all of your accounts on one mobile dashboard to see the big picture and receive financial insights based on your profile.

Track all of your money in one place — at no cost.

FAQ

How much will my credit score go up if I pay off my car?

Your credit score may actually dip, but it depends on your specific financial situation. That’s because paying off an installment loan can have a negative impact on your credit mix, payment history, and length of credit history.

Will paying off a car loan early improve credit?

Each situation is unique. Paying off a loan will improve your debt-to-income ratio, which lenders look at to determine your creditworthiness. However, it can also have a negative impact on your credit mix, payment history, and length of credit history.

Why did my credit score drop when I paid off my car early?

Credit score algorithms are complex, and every borrower’s situation is different. If your car loan was your only installment loan, closing it reduced your credit mix, which accounts for 10% of your score. Paying off a loan can also reduce the overall length of your open credit accounts, another factor used to calculate your score.


Photo credit: iStock/Pofuduk Images

SoFi’s Relay tool offers users the ability to connect both in-house accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score provided to you is a Vantage Score® based on TransUnion™ (the “Processing Agent”) data.
*Terms and conditions apply. (Must click on the link to be eligible.) This offer is only available to new SoFi users without existing SoFi accounts. It is non-transferable. One offer per person. To receive the Rewards points offer, you must successfully complete setting up Credit Score Monitoring. Rewards points may only be redeemed into SoFi accounts such as cash in SoFi Checking and Savings or loan balances, Stock Bits, fractional shares and cryptocurrency subject to program terms that may be found here: SoFi Member Rewards Terms and Conditions. SoFi reserves the right to modify or discontinue this offer at any time without notice.
Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.
Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s
website
.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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How Much Does Your Credit Score Increase After Paying Off a Debt

Does Paying Off a Debt Increase Your Credit Score?

Whether you’re thinking about paying off a debt or mulling over how to increase your credit score — or both — it’s reasonable to ask if paying off debt helps your credit rating. The answer, though, is more complex than a simple yes or no.

We’ll delve into it all here, showing how paying off a debt can either raise or reduce your credit score, depending on the circumstances. We’ll also explain a bit about how credit scores are calculated, and especially how managing your credit utilization can give you some control over your credit score.

How Paying Off a Debt Is Connected to Your Credit Score

What affects your credit score is on a lot of people’s mind. Your credit score is determined by five factors, some of which are weighted more than others. Paying off a debt can affect each of these factors in different ways, causing your score to rise or dip. Sometimes changes in two factors can even cancel each other out, leaving your score unchanged. This is why it’s hard to predict how paying off a debt will affect your credit.

Before we continue, you may want to take a moment to find out your credit score for free.

Recommended: What is The Difference Between Transunion and Equifax

Check your score with SoFi Relay

Track your credit score for free. Sign up and get $10.*


Recommended: Does Net Worth Include Home Equity

Credit Score Calculation Factors

According to FICO® Score, a credit rating company, these are the five factors commonly used to calculate your score:

•   Payment history (timely payments): 35%

•   Amounts owed (credit utilization): 30%

•   Length of credit history: 15%

•   New credit requests: 10%

•   Credit mix (installment versus revolving): 10%

Once FICO’s algorithm calculates your score, a credit score rating scale assigns it a category ranging from Poor to Exceptional. A higher number indicates to lenders that a person is a lower risk for default:

•   Exceptional: 800 to 850

•   Very Good: 740 to 799

•   Good: 670 to 739

•   Fair: 580 to 669

•   Poor: 300 to 579

As you can see, a Fair credit score falls between 580 and 669. A Poor or bad credit score falls between 300 and 579. The minimum credit score required to qualify for a loan is around 610 to 640, depending on the lender — meaning not everyone with a Fair score would qualify.

Recommended: Do Personal Loans Build Credit?

Why a Credit Score Can Go Down After Paying Off a Debt

Because paying off debt feels good and improves your financial situation, people can be surprised when their credit score actually drops. This negative impact can be due to changes in one or more factors:

•   credit utilization

•   credit mix

•   overall credit age

When you pay off a credit card and then close the account, you reduce your available credit and increase your credit utilization. Similarly, if you pay off your only car loan and close that account, you have one fewer type of account in your credit mix. Finally, paying off and closing an older account may reduce the average age of your overall credit history. (We’ll explore these scenarios in more detail below.)

While none of these things is “bad” in financial terms, it temporarily counts against you in the world of credit scores.

What Is Credit Utilization?

Now for a little more background on credit utilization. Credit utilization is a factor with revolving forms of credit, such as credit cards and lines of credit, where you can reuse the account up to your limit.

Your credit utilization rate, or ratio, is determined by dividing the sum of your credit limits by the sum of your current balances. So if someone has a $5,000 limit and is using $2,500, that’s a 50% credit utilization rate. Your rate should be kept below 30% to avoid a negative affect on your credit score.

What Is a Credit Mix?

Lenders like to see that an applicant can successfully handle different kinds of credit. This includes installment loans like mortgages, car loans, and personal loans, as well as revolving credit such as credit cards and lines of credit. If a person can manage both types of credit well, a lender will likely consider them less of a risk.

Recommended: Should I Sell My House Now or Wait

How Credit Age Factors In

The length of your credit history demonstrates your experience in using credit. To lenders, the longer the better. When payments are on time, this combo reassures lenders that you will likely continue to make on-time payments going forward.

New credit accounts can also lower your credit age. More important, opening or even applying for many new accounts is a red flag to lenders that you may be in financial trouble. The application process also involves a hard credit inquiry, which can lower your credit score.

Sample Scenarios

Here are two examples of someone paying off a credit card. In one case, the credit score goes up. In another, it goes down.

Credit Utilization Goes Down / Credit Score Goes Up

Let’s say that someone has a credit utilization rate of 40%, which is negatively impacting their credit score. (Remember, below 30% is best.) When they make enough payments to bring their utilization rate down to 25%, this can boost their credit score.

Recommended: What Credit Score is Needed to Buy a Car

Credit Mix & Age Go Down / Credit Score Goes Down

Now, let’s imagine that someone pays off the balance of their first and only credit card. This should help their utilization score! But wait: Then they close the account, and their average credit age drops. And since this is their only form of revolving credit, their credit mix has lost out too.

Counterintuitively, paying off the card may make their credit score go down — at least in the short term.

Paying Off a Loan Early vs Paying It on Schedule

People often wonder if it’s better to pay off a loan early, if you can. In the case of a personal loan, early payoff can lower the average age of someone’s credit history, possibly lowering their credit score.

In reality, the effect will depend upon their overall credit situation. Paying the loan off according to the schedule will keep it open longer, which can help with their credit age. On the other hand, they’ll pay more in interest because the loan is still open.

If you’re in this situation, weigh the pros and cons before making the decision that’s best for you.

How Long Can It Take To See Your Credit Score Change?

According to the credit report agency TransUnion, credit reports are updated when lenders send them new information. In general, this happens every 30-45 days, though some lenders update more frequently.

If you’re concerned about your credit score, consider signing up for a credit monitoring service. What qualifies as credit monitoring varies from company to company. Look for a one that sends alerts whenever your score changes for better or worse.

Recommended: What Is a Tri-Merge Credit Report?

The Takeaway

How paying off a debt affects someone’s credit score depends on the person’s overall credit profile. Paying off a credit card typically helps your credit score because the account remains open, lowering your credit utilization. Paying off a loan can hurt your score because the loan is then closed, potentially reducing your credit mix and age. Generally, though, borrowers shouldn’t let credit score concerns prevent them from taking actions that are in their financial interest.

To benefit from free credit monitoring and gain a bird’s eye view of your financial picture, try the SoFi Relay app. You can connect all of your accounts into one convenient mobile dashboard, set multiple financial goals, track your spending, and more — all in one place.

Track your money like a champion with SoFi Relay.

FAQ

How fast does your credit score increase after paying off a debt?

In fact, your credit score may dip for a short period after a debt is paid off. Lenders report new information to credit reporting agencies every 30-45 days, though some lenders update more frequently. Generally, you shouldn’t let concerns about your credit score prevent you from taking action that is in your best financial interest.

Is it best to pay off all debt before buying a house?

Credit report agency Experian says it generally makes sense to pay off credit card debt before buying a home. Just know that in some circumstances, paying off a debt may temporarily reduce your credit score — which can affect the loan terms you qualify for. If you do pay off a credit card, keep the account open until after you qualify for a loan.

How do you get an 800 credit score?

Pay bills on time, maintain a credit utilization rate under 30%, and effectively manage your credit history length, new credit requests, and credit mix. Although this won’t guarantee a score of 800, it will help you maximize yours.


Photo credit: iStock/Patcharapong Sriwichai

SoFi’s Relay tool offers users the ability to connect both in-house accounts and external accounts using Plaid, Inc’s service. When you use the service to connect an account, you authorize SoFi to obtain account information from any external accounts as set forth in SoFi’s Terms of Use. SoFi assumes no responsibility for the timeliness, accuracy, deletion, non-delivery or failure to store any user data, loss of user data, communications, or personalization settings. You shall confirm the accuracy of Plaid data through sources independent of SoFi. The credit score provided to you is a Vantage Score® based on TransUnion™ (the “Processing Agent”) data.
*Terms and conditions apply. (Must click on the link to be eligible.) This offer is only available to new SoFi users without existing SoFi accounts. It is non-transferable. One offer per person. To receive the Rewards points offer, you must successfully complete setting up Credit Score Monitoring. Rewards points may only be redeemed into SoFi accounts such as cash in SoFi Checking and Savings or loan balances, Stock Bits, fractional shares and cryptocurrency subject to program terms that may be found here: SoFi Member Rewards Terms and Conditions. SoFi reserves the right to modify or discontinue this offer at any time without notice.
Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.
Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s
website
.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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