What Is a Credit Report?
A credit report is a detailed report of your credit history. It lists such transactions as 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, such as your spouse or child, the loan will appear on each of your reports.
The following information is included in your credit report:
Personal information, such as 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:
Each agency’s report will contain the same information. Consider ordering your credit report from a different credit bureau every four months. This will allow you to review your report three times a year, and may help you quickly catch reporting errors or identity theft.
To learn more, or to order your report, visit annualcreditreport.com 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 may have to provide your previous address. For security purposes, you may 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, review it 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 consent
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 contains wrong information, 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 due to fraud or identity theft, visit After Identity Theft for resources and next steps.
If the mistake has to do with an account you know to be yours, you should dispute the mistake by sending a letter to each credit bureau whose report contains the mistake.
Mail the completed letter along with a copy of your credit report with the incorrect items circled and proof of your identity. If you suspect and reported identity theft, also include a copy of the report you made of the identity theft. To learn more, read After Identity Theft.
You can’t ask the credit bureaus or creditors to remove from your report 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?
Negative information that is correct will 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, certain debts may still be outstanding. 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.