Credit Report 101

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Credit report matters seem to be popping up everywhere these days in the media — both on the news and in advertisements. So what's the buzz about?

Whether you realize it or not, your credit report plays a critical role in your life and you'll be better by understanding what a credit report is and how it affects you.

Your Credit Report Is...

A credit report is a summary of your credit history. It includes information and safeguards from all three major credit reporting bureaus that maintain credit information about you: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian.

Individuals and institutions — such as lenders, landlords, employers and insurers — can purchase your credit report from a credit reporting bureau before making a decision about you. Just think, every time you apply for a loan or credit card, try to rent property, apply for a job or try to get insurance coverage, these groups may review your credit report and credit history to learn more about you and help determine what kind of risk you are.

Your Credit Report Contains...

While each of the three credit reporting bureaus maintain separate files on you, they do not share information, but they all maintain the same basic information that makes up your credit report:

  • Your Personal Information — This includes basic information like your name, Social Security Number, current and past addresses, your birth date, and current and past employers. Your Personal Information is largely gathered from previous credit applications you've filled out.
  • Your Credit History — This makes up the largest part of your credit report and contains detailed information about credit accounts in your name or accounts that list you as an authorized user. This information comes from creditors and can include the date your accounts were opened, your loan amount or credit limit, your loan balance or current available credit, payment terms and payment history. Closed and inactive accounts may also appear in your credit history.
  • Inquiries — Every time a third party (that's anyone other than you) pulls a credit report on you, the credit reporting bureau they purchased your credit report from records the transaction and adds it to the Inquiries section of your credit report.
  • Public Records — Public information made available through government agencies may also appear on your credit report. This information can include bankruptcies, overdue child support payments and liens.

Your Credit Report Does Not Include...

Checking and savings accounts are not included in your credit report; nor is your gender, marital status, ethnic background, medical history, criminal history, religion or political affiliations.

Bankruptcies are removed from your credit report after ten years, and charged off or closed collection and delinquent accounts that are more than seven years old are also removed. Inactive and closed accounts are removed from your credit history after anywhere from seven to eleven years from the last day of activity (depending on how the account was paid off).

It's important to note that, while your credit score is derived largely from information on your credit report, it is not considered to be part of your credit report.

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