Review and understand your credit report

Your credit report is a collection of information about you and your credit history, and can have a major impact on your life. The three credit reporting agencies are Equifax, Trans Union, and Experian.

  • Know whether you have a credit report. If you have ever applied for any of the following, you have a credit report:
    • Credit card
    • Student loan
    • Auto loan
    • Mortgage
  • Understand who looks at your credit report. Your credit report may be looked at by all of the following:
    • Potential creditors
    • Landlords
    • Potential and current employers
    • Government licensing agencies
    • Insurance underwriters
  • Know what these entities are asking.
    • How promptly do you pay your bills?
    • How many credit cards do you hold?
    • What is the total amount of credit extended to you?
    • How much do you owe on all of your accounts?
  • Be aware of the consequences of credit mistakes. Any negative information found on your credit report (late payments, bankruptcies, too much debt) can have a serious impact on your ability to do the following:
    • Get credit
    • Get a low interest rate on your credit accounts
    • Get a new job
    • Advance in your current job
    • Rent or buy a home
  • Know what is on your credit report.
    • Personal identifying information — Name, Social Security number, date of birth, current and previous addresses, and employers
    • Credit account information — date opened, credit limit, balance, monthly payment, and payment history
    • Public record information — bankruptcy, tax and other liens, judgments, and, in some states, overdue child support
    • Inquiries — names of companies that requested your credit report
    • Your credit score, depending on the type of report
  • Know what is not on your credit report.
    • Checking or savings account information
    • Medical history
    • Race
    • Gender
    • Religion
    • National origin
    • Political preference
    • Criminal record
  • Understand how opting out of credit or closing a credit account can affect your credit report and score.
    • If you decide to opt out of creditor contract terms, the creditor may close your account. This can negatively affect your credit score.
    • If you close a credit card account, your score may decrease.
  • Be aware of how long information stays on your credit report.
    • Positive information — indefinitely
    • Inquiries — 6 months to 2 years
    • Most negative information — 7 years
    • Some bankruptcies — 10 years
  • Request your free credit report.
  • Check your credit report. Review your credit report at least once per year. Make certain all of the information is accurate. Reviewing this information can help you prevent and detect identity theft.
  • Report all inaccurate information to the credit bureau. For more information, review the Fair Credit Reporting Act. If you have had financial problems, take necessary measures to restore your credit.