Your Credit Record… A decision making tool

If you are one of the 200 million plus people in the United States with a charge card, credit card, car loan, student loan or home mortgage, then information about you probably is stored in the databases of one or all of the “big four” credit reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion, Equifax and Innovis.

Smaller credit bureaus usually affiliate with one or more of these. Most of the information in your consumer credit report comes directly from your current creditors. The credit reporting agencies compile the data and then provide it to member lenders when you apply for new credit or an addition to present credit arrangements.

The credit report’s purpose is to help a lender decide whether to grant your new credit request.

What a typical consumer credit report contains:

Identifying information: Your name (including generation, such as Sr., Jr., III), nicknames, current and previous addresses, Social Security number, year of birth, current and previous employers and, if applicable, your spouse’s name. They may also ask for your mother’s maiden name (to be used later for identification purposes if you should make a phone inquiry).

Credit information: The accounts you have with banks, retailers, credit card issuers and other lenders. (Be aware that some smaller merchants may not report credit transactions. If you have any doubts about this, ask you merchant what he does.)

For each account, your credit report will list the type of loan (revolving credit, student loan, mortgage, etc.), the date you opened the account, your credit limit or loan amount, the account balance, whether anyone else besides you (your spouse or cosigner, for example) is responsible for paying the account, and your payment pattern during the past two years.

Public record information: State and county court records related to bankruptcies, tax liens or monetary judgments. In some states, credit reports list delinquent child support payments.

Inquiries: If a credit grantor or potential employer obtains a copy of your credit report for any reason, your credit report will contain a record of that access for up to two years.

(Federal law requires the two-year retention for employer access but only six months for credit grantor access.) These time periods protect you as a consumer or job applicant.

Almost as important as what is in your credit report is what isn’t. Your credit report does not contain any information about your race, religious preference, medical history, personal life style, personal background, political preference or criminal record.

“Good” information prevails

Many people believe a credit report shows only negative information. Actually most of the data on file is positive, indicating that the majority of people pay their bills on time.

Also, the credit bureaus have made credit reports easier to read. Gone are the columns of numbers and codes. In their place are complete sentences of plain, everyday English that take the guesswork out of reading your report.

How To Get A Copy of Your Credit Report:

Everyone is entitled to one free credit report from each credit bureau per year. To receive your free report, go to or call 877-322-8228. If you have been denied credit or insurance because of your credit report, the Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you the right to obtain the name and address of the credit reporting agency that supplied the report, if you contact them within 30 days of the denial.

There are three credit bureaus:







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