Credit Report Basics
Your credit report is a detailed statement of your credit history. Your credit report provides information on the way you handle debt and includes details about the amount of debt you have, your history of paying certain bills, whether you’ve ever filed bankruptcy, cars and homes you own or have had repossessed or foreclosed on, companies that have inquired or accessed your report, as well as personal information such as previous names, addresses, and more. Your credit report may also include information on any tax issues or court judgments.
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Where does the information come from?
There are three main credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and Transunion) that collect the information found in your credit report. Information about your debt is submitted to these companies from banks, lenders, and credit card companies. While loan and credit card information is usually reported monthly, other information may not be reported to credit bureaus unless you fall seriously behind on your payments and it may be listed as a debt collection.
What is my credit report used for?
Your credit report is used by lenders to determine whether they will offer you money and at what interest rates. Insurance providers, rental companies, and internet, cable, and cell phone providers may also use your credit report decide if they will offer you service and the amount of deposit they may ask you for. With permission from you, an employer can also access and use your credit report to determine their employment decision.
How can I access my credit report?
Each of the three main credit bureaus is required to provide you with a free copy of your credit report once per year. The only authorized way to access these free reports is by going to annualcreditreport.com.
How long does negative information remain on my credit report?
Usually, negative information about late payments, foreclosures, collections, and public records stay on your credit report for seven years. Bankruptcies can vary, generally, seven years for completed Chapter 13 and ten years for Chapter 7.
What do I do if I notice a mistake on my credit report?
The first step you should take is to notify the credit bureau, in writing, of the mistake. The bureau is required to investigate the mistake in question and report their findings back to you. The second step you should take is to contact the bank, lender, or company that reported the mistaken information to the credit bureau. Again, this should be in writing. The bank, lender, or company is required to report your dispute to the credit bureau and if the mistake is valid, they are required to ask the credit bureau to fix or update the mistake.
How can I best monitor the information on my credit report?
A good idea to help you monitor your report and catch any mistakes on your report is to download one of the three reports every four months. If you’re checking your credit reports for the first time, you may want to download all three at because information on each can vary.