Your personal credit report contains your identification information and a history of your financial actions.
Order your credit report so you can check for and fix errors you may find. Each credit bureau; Equifax, Transunion and Experian, may report differently and have different scores. Use our free credit check to gauge how well you are currently managing your credit.
Example Credit Report at the very bottom of this article...
A credit report is also referred to as a 'credit file' and a 'credit history'. It is intended to be user-friendly, but can be very confusing. Once you understand the basics of a credit report, it can help you likewise understand the information lenders see, as well as identify weak areas and even errors.
A typical consumer credit report has four types of information.
By law, credit report agencies cannot disclose certain medical information (relating to specific illness or condition), but can identify the name of a data furnisher (i.e., "Medical Center") that reports your payment history. If so, those names display in your report, but in reports to others they display only as medical payment data. Consumer statements included on your report at your request that contain medical information are disclosed to others.
Public record information in some states may also include overdue child support. Bankruptcy information can remain on your credit report up to 10 years; unpaid tax liens can remain for up to 15 years; other public record information can remain up to seven years.
Credit information includes specific account information, such as the date opened, credit limit or loan amount, balance and monthly payment and payment pattern. The report also states whether anyone besides you (a joint account holder or cosigner, for example) is responsible for paying the account. Active positive credit information may remain on your report indefinitely, while most negative information remains up to seven years.
Requests by others to view your credit history will show you who has received information from your credit report and who was given your name during the recent past, as allowed by law. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, credit grantors with a permissible purpose may inquire about your credit information without your prior consent. This section includes the date of the inquiry and how long the inquiry will remain on your report.
On your personal credit report ordered directly from Credit Report Agency, information about those who inquired for the purposes of extending a pre-approved credit offer are included for your information. These inquiries are not revealed to creditors and do not impact your ability to obtain credit.
Personal information can include your name, current and previous addresses, telephone number, reported variations of your Social Security number, date of birth and current and previous employers.
"Statements of dispute" also may be added by you or your creditors. Creditors report temporary dispute statements when you challenge an account's status with them. The statement is no longer reported when the dispute is resolved, usually within 30 days.
If you and your creditor cannot agree on an account's status, you may have a statement added to your credit history. The statement will remain for seven years. Because the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires that Credit Report Agencies add statements at the consumer's request, Credit Report Agencies cannot mask medical information contained in a statement. Statements display to anyone who reviews your information so it may not be in your best interest to share your medical information in a statement.
Your credit report does not contain data about race, religious preference, medical history, personal lifestyle, political preference, friends, criminal record or any other information unrelated to credit. Nor is there information about your checking or savings accounts.
Review your consumer credit report:
Whenever you apply for a new credit card, loan or extension of credit, the potential lender will most likely review your credit report before making a decision. You should too! Check it several weeks or even months prior to making a large credit purchase.
Get an easy-to-read summary of your credit accounts and total debt – both existing balances and available limits.
Budget and plan for the future.
Assure the accuracy of the information reported about your credit. This is especially important when you're getting ready to buy an expensive item such as a car or new home.
Correcting credit report errors:
Federal law allows consumers to challenge inaccuracies and correct their credit files, and Credit Report Agencies encourage consumers to dispute incorrect data. There is no fee. If you believe there is an error on your report, dispute it online for fast resolution. Credit Report Agencies will verify your dispute with the source of the data and receive a response within 30 days. Once Credit Report Agencies receive the response, they will send you the results of the investigation.
Qualifying for discounted or free reports
You may be eligible to receive a discounted or free credit report if you meet one of the following conditions:
Improve Credit Score:
Your credit report shows how well you managed your financial responsibilities during a certain period of time. Negative information drops off over time, but the positive information remains. To create a positive credit history:
Print clearly when applying for credit.
Consistently use your complete name. Providing complete, accurate and consistent identification on your credit applications helps set up your credit history correctly from the beginning. It also minimizes the chance that your credit file will be incomplete or mixed with another consumer's file.
Pay your bills on time. Most lenders look at the most recent information on a report. So if you've paid your accounts on time for the last two to three years, the lender may weigh that more heavily than a series of late payments from five years ago.
Set up a budget, and live within it. In the age of self-help and empowerment, managing your finances should top your list.
Review your credit report 60 to 90 days before making a major purchase (such as a home or car).
If you begin to fall behind on your payments:
Be an educated consumer:
Going to a credit repair clinic will not be of help to you. There is nothing any credit repair clinic can legally do for you – including removing inaccurate credit information – that you can't do for yourself for free, and their fees can be substantial, ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
The Credit Repair Organization Act is a federal law that prohibits credit repair clinics from taking a consumer's money until they have fully completed the services they promised. It also requires such firms to provide consumers with a written contract stating all the services to be provided and the terms and conditions of payment. Consumers also have three days to withdraw from the contract.
Example Credit Report:
Apply for a free credit report at Credit Federal.