Behind the Credit Card Scene: Your Credit Report

Friday, July 12th, 2013
Updated: July 12th, 2013
The content is accurate at the time of publication and is subject to change.

What are the credit reports? Why should I always check it when applying for a credit card or a loan? What can I find in my credit reports? These are the common questions when it comes to credit reports not saying that most people confuse credit reports with credit scores.

Credit report is a record of loans, credit cards, payments and outstanding debts, whereas credit score is a three digit number between 300 and 850.

The information in your credit reports is supplied by companies that have given you credit or loaned you money. The companies, or lenders, give regular reports (usually once a month) about your credit accounts to the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies (credit bureaus). And the bureaus collect this information and keep it in their databases and provide it to lenders when you apply for a new credit card or loan. Credit reporting bureaus do not make lending decisions.

Lenders use credit reports to decide if you are creditworthy and responsible enough to handle additional credit. Your credit report should contain:

  • Payment information – your current and past payments are recorded, including the information whether your payments have been on time or late.
  • Balances – all the balances on your credit cards, including outstanding balances, and the amounts of your loans.
  • Personal information – all your personal data including information from public record, like bankruptcy or overdue taxes.
  • Overdue child support payments.
  • History of inquiries –the names of everyone who recently asked for a copy of your credit report.

Under the Federal law, every a year you can get a free copy of your credit report from the three biggest credit bureaus. These credit bureaus are: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. These three companies have one central website (annualcreditreport.com) where you can get the free annual credit reports from each of them. You can request your reports online, by phone at 1-877-322-8228 or by mail.

You should check your credit reports at least once a year to make sure there are no inaccurate records and that no one is opening up accounts in your name.

To order your reports you will need to supply the credit bureaus with your personal information so they can identify you. This usually includes your Social Security number, your full name, as well as current address and previous address.

Many people who apply for a credit are denied because of lack of credit history. Without credit history, the lenders find it hard to determine if you are good credit risk and often deny applications. So if you’ve never had credit, or haven’t used credit in a long time, you can begin to build a credit history right now.

All rates and fees, and other terms and conditions of the products mentioned in this article/post are actual as of the last update date but are subject to change. See the current products' Terms & Conditions on the issuing banks' websites.

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