ABCs of Credit Reports

Have you ever wondered what goes into your credit report? Here are the four components.

  • Identifying information, such as your name, Social Security number, current and previous addresses, telephone number, birth date, and employer. This information helps ensure that your credit report is accurate and doesn't mistakenly include details about another person (perhaps someone with the same name).
  • Public record information, generally gathered from local courthouses, including bankruptcy records, foreclosures, tax liens, court-ordered payments, and late child-support payments.
  • Other credit history information, such as a list of your credit cards and loans, and whether payments were made on time.
  • Inquiries - a list of creditors, insurance companies or other parties that have requested your credit report, usually when considering an application you submitted. Inquiries typically can remain on your credit report for two years.

Note: Negative information such as late payments or defaults can remain on your credit report for up to seven years, except for bankruptcy information, which may be reported for 10 years.

What is NOT in your credit report?
Your credit report typically does not contain information about your checking and savings account balances, brokerage accounts, medical history, race, sex, religion, national origin, or your driving record.

How do credit bureaus get their information?
Lenders voluntarily supply information to credit bureaus on an ongoing basis. Why? Because having access to current and reliable information helps lenders make informed decisions and offer you financial products and services very quickly.

Can anyone get my credit report?
No. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) contains rules about who can get your credit report. Generally, a third party can access your credit report when considering an application you've made, such as for a loan, a job, insurance or an apartment. The FRCA also allows companies to access your account for review purposes, to determine if you meet their criteria to extend a firm offer of credit. You can opt out of receiving preapproved credit offers.

In addition, an institution where you have the account can obtain your credit report as part of its regular maintenance of your account. An exception to the ongoing relationship rule is for employers who must obtain the employee's permission each time before requesting a credit report.