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What is a Credit Report?

A credit report is a written report that contains a few facts about your debt repayment history and many lenders use this information to determine your credit worthiness.

If you have not checked your credit report lately, you should. You will not know how accurate your credit report is unless you check. To monitor your credit history you must obtain a copy from all three major credit reporting bureaus:

Equifax: 1-800-685-1111
Experian (formerly TRW): 1-888-397-3742
Trans Union: 1-800-916-8800

What information is in a credit report?

A credit report is broken up into several sections: personal report, credit inquiries, credit history, and consumer statements that are submitted.

A Personal Report contains information such as your name, addresses, spouse's name, date of birth, Social Security Number, telephone number, place of employment, mother's maiden name, etc.

Credit Inquiries appear every time a credit issuer runs a credit report on a person and a record of the file inquiry is made. This inquiry will remain on file, in most states, for one or two years. Creditors value this information because it reveals recent credit activity. Information in public records and collection accounts are also registered to these credit reporting agencies. Public records include courthouse records, bankruptcies, judgments, lawsuits, etc.

A Credit History includes the name, identification number, date account was opened, credit limits, current balance, monthly payment amounts, credit/debt repayment history, and payment frequency for the last 12-24 months for each credit guarantor. Records are dated with each request or entry. Other information includes, but is not limited to, consumer disputes, criminal convictions, individual liability or joint liability of accounts, secured accounts, and charge-offs.

Consumer Statements are statements written by the consumer, not exceeding 100 words, regarding any account(s). These statements let you accurately and completely explain any extenuating circumstances that affected your history.

When is a credit file created?

Your credit report is established when you apply for a loan or a credit card. The party who extends the credit must make a report to the credit reporting service on your debt repayments.

If you’re having problems with your creditors, you may request an automatic stay. An automatic stay would give you a little extra time to devise a plan to deal with your debts without having to worry that your creditors are going to create more problems for you.

Who can legally look at my credit report?

Banks and merchants, etc., may not access an individual's credit report unless authorized. This authorization is standard procedure when you sign credit and loan applications, life insurance applications, employment applications, security clearance requests, etc. Read the fine print on the applications for more details.

How often should I look at my credit report?

If you are actively using credit and have monthly or bi-monthly charge activity, installment loan(s), vehicle lease, etc., you should review your credit file every 12 to 18 months. You can request a free credit report by going to http://www.annualcreditreport.com. Please note: a credit report is not the same as a credit score. You will only receive a free credit report on this site.

Since each of the major credit bureaus operates independently they can contain different, and often conflicting, information. New changes in the laws concerning credit reporting may help to eliminate differences between credit bureaus.

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