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What Is a Credit Report?

A credit report is a detailed report of your credit history. It lists things like your car loan, home mortgage, and credit card balances. It will also include court records of tax liens, bankruptcies, foreclosures, and money judgments. Credit reports are created and maintained by credit bureaus. Credit bureaus collect information from public records, banks, and other lenders to create credit reports. Every time you use credit, a record of your payment history is reported to credit bureaus.

If you have always repaid your loans on time, you may have a high credit score. Lenders are more willing to extend credit to borrowers with a high score. Your credit score may be lower if any of the following are true:

  • You have missed or been late on payments;

  • You have filed for bankruptcy;

  • You have been foreclosed on;

  • You have defaulted on loans;

  • You have unpaid money judgments against you.

If you have a lower credit score, lenders who are willing to offer you credit may charge you a higher interest rate because they consider you a credit risk.

Every person has an individual credit report. If you co-signed a loan with someone else, like with your spouse or child, the loan will appear on each of your reports.

The following information is included in your credit report:

  • Personal information, like your name, current and previous addresses, phone number, Social Security number, date of birth, and current and previous employers

  • Certain rental payment history

  • The name of anyone who has gotten a copy of your credit report

  • Statements of dispute (read below for how to dispute the status of an account)

  • Account information from companies that do business with you.

The account information includes the date an account was opened, the credit limit or loan amount, the current balance, and the monthly payment. It will also show whether you made payments on time during the past several years.

Get a Copy of Your Credit Report

You are entitled by law to get a free copy of your complete credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus. You can get one free credit report from each bureau every year. The three major credit bureaus are:

  • Equifax

  • Transunion

  • Experian

Each agency’s report will contain the same information. Consider ordering your credit report from a different credit bureau every four months. This way, you can review your report three times a year, and may help you quickly catch any mistakes or identity theft.

To learn more, or to order your report, visit or call 1-877-322-8228. You will need to provide your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth. If you have recently moved, you might have to provide your previous address. For security purposes, you might be asked for some information that only you would know, like the amount of your monthly mortgage payment.

You should not have to pay anyone for a copy of your credit report. The free credit report does not include a credit score. You can pay a small fee to get your credit score from the credit bureau. Also, some major credit card and auto loan companies now provide credit scores on monthly statements.

There’s Something Wrong on My Credit Report

When you get your credit report, look it over carefully. Sometimes, people find mistakes in their credit report. A mistake in a credit report can cause a denial of credit or a high interest rate. Mistakes could be caused by:

  • Fraud or identity theft: someone opened an account in your name without your permission

  • Clerical error: your account information was accidentally merged with that of someone with the same or a similar name

  • Poor record-keeping: you paid off or closed an account, but the creditor did not make a proper record of it

If the report you got from one credit bureau has a mistake in it, it is a good idea to request your report from the other two agencies to see if the mistake is on those reports, too. You have a right to dispute any information in your credit report you believe is wrong.

If you think the mistake is because of fraud or identity theft, visit After Identity Theft for more information.

If the mistake is not because of fraud or identity theft, you can dispute the mistake by sending a letter to each credit bureau whose report has the mistake. The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau has a guide for how to dispute a mistake on your credit report and has a sample letter you can use.

You can’t ask the credit bureaus or creditors to remove any information that is correct and current, even if it negatively affects your credit score.

How Long Does Negative Information Stay on My Credit Report?

Generally, negative information can appear on your credit report for seven years. Bankruptcy information will appear there for ten years.

Although information comes off the report after a number of years, you may still owe certain debts. For example, if a court entered a money judgment against you, this will only appear on your credit report for seven years. But, the judgment remains enforceable for ten years, and the creditor can renew the judgment if you don’t pay it.