What is a credit report?

A credit report contains information about your credit history and the status of your credit accounts.

This information includes:

  • Your bill-paying history, including any late payments
  • The number of accounts you have and what kind
  • How much of your available credit you are using
  • How long you have had your accounts open
  • Your recent credit activity
  • Whether you have had a debt collection, foreclosure, or bankruptcy, and how old these are

Your credit report may also contain public records such as liens, judgments, and bankruptcies that provide insight into your financial status and obligations.

Lenders use your credit report to help them decide if they will loan you money, what interest rates they will offer you, or to check the status of an existing loan. Companies may use your credit report to help inform them while making a wide range of business decisions such as providing or pricing insurance; renting you an apartment; and (if you agree to let them look at your credit report) making employment decisions about you.

Having a good credit report means it will be easier for you to get loans and lower interest rates. Lower interest rates usually translate into smaller monthly payments.

Get a FREE credit score and credit report

You can order a FREE credit score and copy of your credit report through iQualifier if you have a promo code. Click here to enter your code.

Federal law gives you the right to get a free copy of your credit reports from each of the three national credit reporting companies once every 12 months. These agencies are using one website, one toll-free telephone number, and one mailing address for consumers to order free annual reports. To order, click on annualcreditreport.com, call 1-877-322-8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. The form is on page six; or you can print it from ftc.gov/credit.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) also gives you the right to get your credit score from the national credit reporting companies. However, they are allowed to charge a fee for the score.

Information on this page was obtained from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)(www.ftc.gov) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)(www.consumerfinance.gov). iQualifier is not associated with or endorsed by the FTC or the CFPB.

Why is it important for me to review my credit report?

You should check your credit report at least once a year to make sure there are no errors that could keep you from getting credit or the best available terms on a loan.

You should also check your report before making a major purchase that would involve a loan, such as a house or a car. Make sure the information in the report is accurate and up-to-date.

It is also a good idea to review your credit information regularly to guard against identity theft. Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal or financial information to commit fraud. For example, an identity thief may use your information to open a new credit card account in your name. When they do not pay the bills, the delinquent account is reported on your credit report, damaging your ability to get credit in the future and subjecting you to calls from bill collectors.

Negative information on your credit report

If you find something wrong with your credit report, it is important to dispute it. Be on the lookout for loans or credit cards listed that you never opened, misspelled names, or collection items that were not updated after a settlement was reached and satisfied. Also watch for duplicates of the same debt appearing on your report. There should only be one listing of each debt you owe.

If your credit report contains negative information, but that information is accurate, it can only be removed from your report after the passage of time. Credit reporting companies can report most accurate negative information for seven years and bankruptcy information for 10 years. Information about an unpaid judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer. There is a standard method for calculating the seven-year reporting period. Generally, the period runs from the date that the event took place.

Get a FREE credit score and credit report

You can order a FREE credit score and copy of your credit report through iQualifier if you have a promo code. Click here to enter your code.

Federal law gives you the right to get a free copy of your credit reports from each of the three national credit reporting companies once every 12 months. These agencies are using one website, one toll-free telephone number, and one mailing address for consumers to order free annual reports. To order, click on annualcreditreport.com, call 1-877-322-8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. The form is on page six; or you can print it from ftc.gov/credit.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) also gives you the right to get your credit score from the national credit reporting companies. However, they are allowed to charge a fee for the score.

Information on this page was obtained from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)(www.ftc.gov) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)(www.consumerfinance.gov). iQualifier is not associated with or endorsed by the FTC or the CFPB.

How can I make corrections to my credit report?

If you find something wrong in your credit report, you should dispute it.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), both the credit reporting company and the information provider (the person who you have an account, company, or organization that provides information about you to a credit reporting company) are responsible for correcting inaccurate or incomplete information in your report.

If you find a mistake in a report from a credit reporting company, you should contact, in writing, both the credit reporting company and the company, that provided the information to explain what you think is wrong and why:

  • Provide your complete name and address, telephone number, credit report confirmation number, and account number for any account you are disputing.
  • Explain what information you think is inaccurate, clearly identify each mistake, explain why you are disputing the information and request that the information be deleted or corrected.
  • Include copies (NOT originals) of documents that support your position. You may want to enclose a copy of your credit report with the items in question circled.
  • Send your letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you have a record that your letter was received.
  • Keep copies of your dispute letter and enclosures.

Credit reporting companies must investigate the items in question.

This is usually done within 30 days unless they consider your dispute frivolous. They also must forward all the relevant data you provide about the inaccuracy to the organization that provided the information. After the information provider receives notice of a dispute from the credit reporting company, it must investigate, review the relevant information, and report the results back to the credit reporting company.

If the company corrects your information as a result of your dispute, it must notify all of the credit reporting companies to which it provided the wrong information, so they can update their reports with the correct information.

When the investigation is complete, the credit reporting company must give you the written results and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. (This free report does not count as your annual free report under the FACT Act.) If an item is changed or deleted, the credit reporting company cannot put the disputed information back in your file unless the information provider verifies that the information is, indeed, accurate and complete. The credit reporting company also must send you written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the information provider.

If you request, the credit reporting company must send notices of any correction to anyone who received your report in the past six months. A corrected copy of your report can be sent to anyone who received a copy during the past two years for employment purposes.

How to submit a dispute to the nationwide credit reporting companies

To submit online, by mail, or by phone, use the following contact information:

Equifax
Online: www.ai.equifax.com/CreditInvestigation
By mail: Click here to download the dispute form
Mail the dispute form with your letter to:
Equifax Information Services LLC
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374
By phone: Phone number provided on credit report or (800) 864-2978

Experian
Online: www.experian.com/disputes/main.html
By mail: Use the address provided on your credit report or mail your letter to:
Experian
P.O. Box 4000
Allen, TX 75013
By phone: Phone number provided on credit report or (888) 397-3742

TransUnion
Online: www.transunion.com/personal-credit/credit-disputes-alerts-freezes.page
By mail: Click here to download the dispute form
Mail the dispute form with your letter to:
TransUnion Consumer Solutions
P.O. Box 2000,
Chester, PA 19022-2000
By phone: 800-916-8800

If you are dissatisfied with the resolution

If an investigation doesn’t resolve your dispute with the credit reporting company, you can ask that a statement of the dispute be included in your file and in future reports. You also can ask the credit reporting company to provide your statement to anyone who received a copy of your report in the recent past. Expect to pay a fee for this service.

You also have the option of submitting a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. To do so:

  • Go to: http://www.consumerfinance.gov/complaint
  • Select the icon labeled "credit reporting"
  • Complete and submit the online form
  • If you suspect that the error on your report is a result of identity theft, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Fighting Back Against Identity Theft website for information about identity theft and steps to take if you have been victimized. This will include filing a fraud alert and possibly filing a security freeze.

Information on this page was obtained from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)(www.ftc.gov) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)(www.consumerfinance.gov). iQualifier is not associated with or endorsed by the FTC or the CFPB.

What is a credit score and how does it affect my ability to get credit?

A credit score calculates your credit risk by evaluating all the information in your credit report.

For years, creditors and lenders have been using credit scoring systems to determine whether you are a good risk for credit cards, auto loans, and mortgages. These days, many more types of businesses, including insurance companies and phone companies, are using credit scores to decide whether to approve you for a loan or service and on what terms.

Your credit score starts with information about you from your credit report, such as:

  • Your bill-paying history, including any late payments
  • The number of accounts you have and what kind
  • How much of your available credit you are using
  • How long you have had your accounts open
  • Your recent credit activity
  • Whether you have had a debt collection, foreclosure, or bankruptcy, and how old these actions are

By law, the calculation of your credit score cannot use or take into account factors such as race or color, religion, gender, national origin, or marital status.

A statistical formula is then used to compare this information to the credit performance of consumers with similar profiles, awarding points for each factor. A total number of points – a credit score – helps predict how creditworthy you are; that is, how likely it is that you will repay a loan and make payments on time. Generally, consumers who are good credit risks have higher credit scores.

Some insurance companies also use credit report information, along with other factors, to help predict your likelihood of filing an insurance claim and the amount of the claim. They may consider these factors when they decide whether to grant you insurance and the amount of the premium they charge. The credit scores used by insurance companies are sometimes are called “insurance scores” or “credit-based insurance scores.”

There is no “one” credit score; there are many credit scoring formulas available to you as a consumer as well as to lenders. Different lenders use different scoring formulas, so your score can vary from lender to lender. Usually a higher score makes it easier to qualify for a loan and means a better rate of interest. Most scores range from 300-850, although there is one scoring method that uses a range from 501-990.

You can get your credit score from the three nationwide credit reporting companies, but you will have to pay a fee for it.

Get a FREE credit score and credit report

You can order a FREE credit score and copy of your credit report through iQualifier if you have a promo code. Click here to enter your code.

Federal law gives you the right to get a free copy of your credit reports from each of the three national credit reporting companies once every 12 months. These agencies are using one website, one toll-free telephone number, and one mailing address for consumers to order free annual reports. To order, click on annualcreditreport.com, call 1-877-322-8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. The form is on page six; or you can print it from ftc.gov/credit.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) also gives you the right to get your credit score from the national credit reporting companies. However, they are allowed to charge a fee for the score.

Information on this page was obtained from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)(www.ftc.gov) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)(www.consumerfinance.gov). iQualifier is not associated with or endorsed by the FTC or the CFPB.

How do I get and keep a good credit score?

There are no secrets or shortcuts to building a strong credit score. Following these guidelines should help:

Pay your bills on time, every time. One way to make sure your payments are on time is to set up automatic payments, or set up electronic reminders. Also try to pay more than the minimum payment if you can. If you have missed payments, get current and stay current.

Don’t get close to your credit limit. Credit scoring models look at how close you are to being “maxed out,” so try to keep your balances low in proportion to your overall credit limit. Experts advise keeping your use of credit at no more than 30 percent of your total credit limit. Think carefully before closing some credit accounts and putting most or all of your credit card balances onto one card. You may end up hurting your credit score if it means that you are using a high percentage of your total credit limit.

A long credit history will help your score. Credit scores are based on experience over time. The more experience you have with getting credit and paying your bills on time, the more information there is to determine whether you are a good credit risk.

Only apply for credit that you need. Credit scores look at your recent credit activity as an indicator of your need for credit. If you have applied for too many new accounts in a short period of time, it may appear to lenders that your economic circumstances have changed negatively.

Don’t establish too many credit accounts. Although it is generally considered a plus to have established credit accounts, too many credit card accounts may have a negative effect on your score. In addition, many scoring systems consider the type of credit accounts you have; for example, under some scoring models, loans from finance companies may have a negative effect on your credit score.

Get a FREE credit score and credit report

You can order a FREE credit score and copy of your credit report through iQualifier if you have a promo code. Click here to enter your code.

Federal law gives you the right to get a free copy of your credit reports from each of the three national credit reporting companies once every 12 months. These agencies are using one website, one toll-free telephone number, and one mailing address for consumers to order free annual reports. To order, click on annualcreditreport.com, call 1-877-322-8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. The form is on page six; or you can print it from ftc.gov/credit.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) also gives you the right to get your credit score from the national credit reporting companies. However, they are allowed to charge a fee for the score.

Information on this page was obtained from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)(www.ftc.gov) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)(www.consumerfinance.gov). iQualifier is not associated with or endorsed by the FTC or the CFPB.

How does the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) help me?

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) promotes the accuracy, fairness, and privacy of information in the files of the nation’s credit reporting companies.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) enforces the FCRA with respect to these companies. Recent amendments to the FCRA expand consumer rights and place additional requirements on credit reporting companies. Businesses that provide information about consumers to credit reporting companies and businesses that use credit reports also have new responsibilities under the law.

Here are answers to some of the questions consumers have asked the FTC which formerly was charged with enforcing FCRA, about consumer reports and credit reporting companies.

Q. Do I have a right to know what’s in my report?
A. You have the right to know what’s in your report, but you have to ask for the information. The credit reporting company must tell you everything in your report, and give you a list of everyone who has requested your report within the past year - or the past two years if the requests were related to employment.

You can order a FREE copy of your credit score and credit report through iQualifier if you have a promo code. Click here to enter your code.

Q. What type of information do credit reports contain?
A. Credit reports contain four basic types of information:

  • Identification and employment information: Your name, birth date, Social Security number, employer, and spouse’s name are noted routinely. The credit reporting company also may provide information about your employment history, home ownership, income, and previous address, if a creditor asks.
  • Payment history: Your accounts with different creditors are listed, showing how much credit has been extended and whether you’ve paid on time. Related events, such as the referral of an overdue account to a collection agency, also may be noted.
  • Inquiries: Credit reporting companies must maintain a record of all creditors who have asked for your credit history within the past year, and a record of individuals or businesses that have asked for your credit history for employment purposes for the past two years.
  • Public record information: Events that are a matter of public record, such as bankruptcies, foreclosures, or tax liens, may appear in your report.

Q. Is there a charge for my report?
A. Under the Free File Disclosure Rule of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT Act), each of the nationwide credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — is required to provide you with a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months, if you ask for it.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) also gives you the right to get your credit score from the national credit reporting companies. However, they are allowed to charge a fee for the score.

Q. How do I order my free report?
A. The three nationwide credit reporting companies are using one website, one toll-free telephone number, and one mailing address for consumers to order their free annual report. To order, click on annualcreditreport.com, call 1-877-322-8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. The form is on page six; or you can print it from ftc.gov/credit. Do not contact the three nationwide credit reporting companies individually. You may order your free annual reports from each of the credit reporting companies at the same time, or you can order order them one at a time. The law allows you to order one free copy from each of the nationwide credit reporting companies every 12 months.

Q. What information do I have to provide to get my free report through annualcreditreport.com?
A. You need to provide your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth. If you have moved in the last two years, you may have to provide your previous address. To maintain the security of your file, each nationwide credit reporting company may ask you for some information that only you would know, like the amount of your monthly mortgage payment. Each company may ask you for different information because the information each has in your file may come from different sources.

Annualcreditreport.com is the only authorized online source for your free annual credit report from the three nationwide credit reporting companies. Neither the website nor the companies will call you first to ask for personal information or send you an email asking for personal information. If you get a phone call or an email - or see a pop-up ad - claiming it’s from annualcreditreport.com (or any of the three nationwide credit reporting companies), it’s probably a scam. Don’t reply or click on any link in the message. Instead, forward any email that claims to be from annualcreditreport.com (or any of the three credit reporting companies) to spam@uce.gov, the FTC’s database of deceptive spam.

Q. Are there other situations where I might be eligible for a free report?
A. Under federal law, you’re entitled to a free report if a company takes adverse action against you, such as denying your application for credit, insurance, or employment, and you ask for your report within 60 days of receiving notice of the action. The notice will give you the name, address, and phone number of the credit reporting company. You’re also entitled to one free report a year if you’re unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days; if you’re on welfare; or if your report is inaccurate because of fraud, including identity theft. Otherwise, any of the three credit reporting companies may charge you up to $10.50 for another copy of your report within a 12-month period.

Information on this page was obtained from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)(www.ftc.gov) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)(www.consumerfinance.gov). iQualifier is not associated with or endorsed by the FTC or the CFPB.

Government protections for you and your credit

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau enforces a number of credit laws and provides information about them to help you stay informed and protect yourself:

The Equal Credit Opportunity Act prohibits the denial of credit because of your sex, race, marital status, religion, national origin, age, or because you receive public assistance.
Link: www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0347-your-equal-credit-opportunity-rights

The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you the right to learn what information is being distributed about you by credit reporting companies.
Link: www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/031224fcra.pdf
www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/credit-and-loans
www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0151-disputing-errors-credit-reports

The Truth in Lending Act requires lenders to give you written disclosures of the cost of credit and terms of repayment before you enter into a credit transaction.
Link: files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201306_cfpb_laws-and-regulations_tila-combined-june-2013.pdf

The Fair Credit Billing Act establishes procedures for resolving billing errors on your credit card accounts.
Link: www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0219-fair-credit-billing

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act prohibits debt collectors from using unfair or deceptive practices to collect overdue bills that your creditor has forwarded for collection.
Link: www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0149-debt-collection

The CFPB works to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint or get free information on consumer issues, visit ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-CFPB-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. Watch a video, How to File a Complaint, at ftc.gov/video to learn more. The CFPB enters consumer complaints into the Consumer Sentinel Network, a secure online database and investigative tool used by hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

Information on this page was obtained from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)(www.ftc.gov) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)(www.consumerfinance.gov). iQualifier is not associated with or endorsed by the FTC or the CFPB.

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