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Woman looking over Credit Report.

A credit report offers a summary of your financial life, including your loan payment history and the status of your credit accounts. Lenders use these reports, along with other information, to evaluate what lending options you qualify for.

What is in a credit report?

Credit reporting companies collect information from public records and companies you do business with in order to compile your credit report. Each credit reporting company formats and reports information differently. However, all credit reports contain essentially the same categories of information. Each category is broken down below:

Identifying Information

Your name, address, Social Security number, date of birth and employment information are all used to identify you on your credit report. This comes from the information that you have provided to lenders, and is used solely for identification purposes.

Trade Lines

Trade lines represent a list of your total number and history of credit accounts. Lenders report on the type of accounts you established with them, such as bankcard, auto loan or mortgage. The date you opened the accounts, your credit limit or loan amount, account balance and payment history are all documented here.

Credit Inquiries

Each time you apply for a loan, you authorize a lender to ask for a copy of your credit report. The Credit Inquiries section identifies everyone who accessed your credit report within the past two years. The report lists both ‘voluntary’ inquires and ‘involuntary’ inquiries. ‘Voluntary’ inquiries appear when you make a request for new credit. ‘Involuntary’ inquiries appear when lenders order your report. This can happen when a lender wants to make you a pre-approved credit offer in the mail. ‘Involuntary’ inquiries do not affect your credit score.

Public Record and Collections

Here you will find public record information from state and county courts, as well as information on debt from collection agencies. Public record information can include bankruptcies, foreclosures, suits, wage attachments, liens and judgments.

What should I look for in my credit report?

It is important to review your credit report once a year to check for accuracy. Keep an eye out for any information that is inaccurate, incomplete or information that should no longer be on your credit report. Remember, your credit report should only show credit inquiries within the past two years. Other errors to look out for are addresses where you never lived or employers you never worked for.

If you find any errors, report them to the creditor and the credit reporting company that you received the report from to have them corrected. If you think that any fraud or identity theft has occurred, contact the credit reporting company immediately. The credit report will include information on how to dispute incorrect or incomplete information.

Where can I get my credit report?

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires that each nationwide credit reporting company give you a free credit report once every 12 months.

You can request your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com or call 877-322-8228.

By Kendall Taylor