By Jon Acuff
What exactly is a credit report? What's inside it? Here are a few quick answers to those questions.
What is a credit report?
A credit report is a detailed record of your credit history maintained by one of three main US credit reporting agencies. Think of it as a file folder that holds information about your financial activities. When you apply for a loan, the lender sends these agencies details about that transaction. When you open up a new credit card, make a payment or miss a payment, all that information is added to your folder. The reporting agencies organize the information and sell it to lenders that use it to help determine whether to grant you a loan. In addition, your credit report provides the material used to calculate your credit score. To learn more about scores, read The 5 Building Blocks of a Credit Score.
What's inside a credit report?
Although the information in your credit report can vary from state to state and agency to agency, it typically includes four types:
Identification and employment information
This includes your name (and your spouse's name, if applicable), birth date, Social Security number, current employer and previous employers. This may also cover your home ownership status, previous and current addresses, and income.
This section summarizes information from each of your accounts with different creditors such as banks, retailers, credit card companies and additional lenders. How much credit you've been extended, your balances and whether you've consistently made payments will be listed as well.
Credit reporting agencies keep a record of all the creditors who have asked for your credit history within the past year. They also keep a list of businesses and individuals who requested your credit history for employment inquiries in the last two years.
Public record information
Events from state and county courts that are considered public record may appear in your report. This can include bankruptcies, foreclosures, suits, wage attachments, tax liens and judgments.
Why should you get a credit report?
Read about why you might want to get a credit report before you go shopping.
As with any aspect of credit, reporting is a personal issue based on your unique information and financial history. We suggest you work with one of the three main US credit reporting agencies to learn more about your credit report. Each agency offers an assortment of products and services that can help you do everything from understand your credit score to protect yourself from the dangers of identity theft.
There are several easy ways to get the information you need online. We encourage you to continue your credit exploration with a visit to Experian, AutoTrader.com's preferred credit monitoring provider.