What is a Credit Report?

Equifax, TRW-Experian and Trans Union

A consumer credit report (CR) is a document that contains factual records of an individual's credit payment history. It is mainly used to judge his/her credit worthiness by lenders.

The CR not only lists basic information such as your name and social security number, but other information pertaining to your credit, especially your borrowing and repaying habits. This information is collected and compiled independently by major credit bureaus such as Equifax, TRW-Experian and Trans Union. Basically, the credit report shows how you treat credit and your relationships with creditors. As people pay their bills, most lenders report credit payment history information to credit bureaus.

Your credit will determine what you can buy, what type of car you drive, and even where you can live. It is important to maintain the best credit report possible. Each person should check his or her credit report and make sure it is correct.

What does a credit report contain? Although the style, format and coding may be different among companies and credit reporting bureaus, the typical person's credit report can include the following types of information:

Personal Information

Your full name, nicknames, birth date, social security number, and current and previous addresses and employers. This information comes from any credit application you have completed.

Public Record Information

Any relevant court records, such as legal judgments, tax liens, bankruptcies, or, in some states, overdue child support. This information comes from public records. Bankruptcies can remain on your credit report for up to 10 years. Other public record information can remain for up to 7 years.

Credit History

A snapshot of your past actions. The credit report lists all loans and credit lines in your name from recent years. Credit reports vary from bureau to bureau, but generally they show the type of loan, the date you began the loan or opened the credit line, the amount of the loan or credit limit, the amount you still owe, and your payment pattern. For example, the credit report may list the number of times you've paid late, including the times you were more than 30, 60, and 90 days late. This information comes from companies that do business with you.

Most information, whether positive or negative, remains on your credit report for 7 years from the date it is first reported, and then cycles off automatically. If there is inaccurate information in your credit report, you have the right to dispute it and have it removed.

Inquiries

A list of those who have obtained a copy of your credit report within the past two years. Inquiries indicate to other credit grantors that you have applied for new credit that could result in additional debt. Potential lenders view multiple recent inquiries on your credit report as a sign that you are overextending yourself. It's common for a potential lender to turn you down because of "excessive inquiries." This information comes from the credit-reporting agency. Most inquiries stay on your credit report for up to two years. To obtain a copy of your credit report click below:

Get Your Credit Report
  • Free Annual Credit Report
    The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. The FCRA promotes the accuracy and privacy of information in the files of the nation's consumer reporting companies. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation's consumer protection agency, enforces the FCRA with respect to consumer reporting companies.  More info.

    The three nationwide consumer reporting companies have set up a central website, a toll-free telephone number, and a mailing address through which you can order your free annual report. Only one website is authorized to fill orders for the free annual credit report you are entitled to under law — annualcreditreport.com.

To order, visit annualcreditreport.com, call 1-877-322-8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. The form is on the back of this brochure; or you can print it from ftc.gov/credit. Do not contact the three nationwide consumer reporting companies individually. They are providing free annual credit reports only through annualcreditreport.com, 1-877-322-8228, and Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

You may also order your credit reports from the following national credit bureaus.