A credit report provides a record of your credit activities. It summarizes your loans and credit card accounts, your payment history, and whether any action has been taken against you for failing to make payments.
A credit report is created by a credit reporting agency or credit bureau that gathers information from your creditors on an ongoing basis. Credit reporting agencies store your information and supply it, for a fee, to individuals and businesses that have a permissible purpose to review your credit report. There are three major credit bureaus: Trans Union, Equifax, and Experian.
Your credit report contains a lot of information about you, including:
- Personal information compiled from your credit This includes your name, social security number, birth date, current and previous addresses, and current and previous employers.
- Credit information that includes accounts you have with banks, retailers, credit card issuers, utility companies and other Accounts are listed by loan type and creditor, and the information reported includes the date the loan was opened, the credit limit or amount of the loan, payment terms, current balance and your payment history. Information may stay on your credit report for seven to eleven years depending on the account type.
- Public records information may include state and federal bankruptcy actions, tax liens, and monetary judgments against This information generally stays on your credit report for seven years.
- Credit report inquiry records provide information about who has asked to see your credit Inquiry records remain on your report for up to two years.
Your credit score is calculated based on information contained in your credit report, but is not part of your credit report. Your credit score (also called your credit rating) is important because it may affect your chance to be approved for a loan, rent an apartment, or get a job. A poor credit score will limit your financial opportunities. Protect and improve your credit score by making payments on time and by limiting your debt.
You can request a free copy of your credit report each year. A federal law called the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires the three major credit bureaus to give you one free copy of your credit report each year. You can also request a free copy of your credit report within 60 days after any company takes adverse action against you—such as denying your application for credit, insurance, or employment—based on your credit report. You can request a copy of your credit report online at www.annualcreditreport.com. Beware of other websites and companies that offer “free” credit reports. They often require you to pay for services in order to receive a free copy of your report. Because your credit report is updated on an ongoing basis, it is important to review and check it for errors regularly.
Under the FCRA, consumer reporting agencies and the businesses that provide them with your credit information are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your credit report. But it is up to you to let them know the information is wrong. To protect your rights under the FCRA, notify the credit reporting agency immediately if you dispute any information in your credit report. A reporting agency that receives notice that you dispute information in your credit report has 45 days to remove or correct the inaccurate information.
Under the FCRA, your credit report can only be released for a permissible purpose. Permissible purposes include:
- your own written instruction to release your report;
- evaluation of your applications for credit or insurance;
- evaluation for employment, promotion, reassignment, or retention, if the employer advises you that it will request the report, and you consent in writing;
- evaluation of your eligibility for government licenses or other benefits;
other legitimate business needs, such as evaluating your suitability for a rental lease, security clearance, or a potential business partnership.