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All About Credit Reports

Warning: Information you find on this page may be outdated or incorrect.

When you make a payment on a credit card or loan, the company that gave you the loan or credit keeps a record of how much and often you pay.

Those companies and other sources also report your credit, loan and payment history to one or more credit reporting companies.

The credit reporting companies combine the information from your different credit, loan and payment reports into a single credit file. Three nationwide companies prepare credit files for people in the U.S.: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

A credit report is an organized list of the information in your credit file. Credit reports may include:

  • A list of companies that have given you credit or loans
  • The total amount for each loan or credit limit for each credit card
  • How often you paid your credit or loans on time, and the amount you paid

Credit reports may also include:

  • Companies that have asked to see your credit report within a certain time period
  • Your address(es) and/or employers
  • Other details of public record

A consumer disclosure contains some of the same information as your credit report, but it has more information. It includes your total history of credit information. Some of this information is not displayed on the credit report viewed by lenders.

Under Federal law, you are entitled to receive one free copy of your credit report from each credit reporting company every 12 months. For more information visit www.consumerfinance.gov.

Can companies that promise to clean up my credit report really do that?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) say that you should be wary of companies that claim they can repair your credit. These companies are commonly called credit clinics. They don’t do anything for you that you can’t do on your own for free.

Beware and consider not dealing with organizations that offer to create a new identity and credit file for you. The FTC, CFPB, and state attorneys general have filed legal actions against some of these organizations. The FTC, CFPB, and others warn that the following claims or actions signal that you may be dealing with a credit clinic:

  • The company asks for money up front and charges you before they’ve performed their services.
  • The company guarantees to remove late payments, bankruptcies, or similar information from a credit report.
  • The company charges a lot of money to repair credit.
  • The company asks you to write to the credit reporting company to verify the same credit account information in the file, over and over, even after the information has been determined to be correct.
  • The company doesn’t want to or can’t provide a business address.
  • The company pushes you to decide to engage them right away.

For additional helpful information about credit clinics please visit the CFPB’s website at www.consumerfinance.gov or the FTC’s website at www.consumer.ftc.gov.

Why don’t my free credit reports include credit scores?

Your credit report and your credit score are not the same thing. Your credit report is all the information that a credit reporting company has gathered about you. Credit reporting companies calculate your credit score by plugging the information in your credit report into their exclusive credit score formula.

Federal law gives you the right to ask for a copy of your credit report from each nationwide credit reporting company every year for free. However, the law does not require the credit reporting companies to give your credit score for free.

For more information visit www.consumerfinance.gov.

(Image provided via Utah.gov.)