Welcome to CreditReport.org
A credit report is such an important piece of information that every person who has received credit is entitled to a free one each year. But what exactly is this document that wields so much power?
How Credit is Gathered
One of the official definitions of credit is noted in Wikipedia:
Credit is the provision of resources by one party to another party where that second party does not reimburse the first party immediately (thereby generating a debt), but instead arranges either to repay or return those resources (or other materials of equal value) at a later date.
When you apply for a credit card (even the unsolicited ones), a car loan, a mortgage or any type of credit, the potential creditor sends your information to the credit report bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and/or Equifax).
Credit Information Sent
You might be curious as to what type of information is compiled by the credit bureaus. The information that appears on your credit report is placed into four categories:
- Consumer Information- This will contain all of your identifying data. This means your name, addresses, SSN, where you have been employed over the years, birth date, and other information that may be pertinent.
- Inquiries- The inclusion of these may be surprising to some. However, every credit application you complete, approved or not, is reported to the credit bureaus. These inquiries remain on your credit report for one year.
- Credit Information- This is a thorough listing of all your credit and actions regarding it. All of your loans, credit cards, mortgages, car notes, etc. are noted on the report. This information also includes names of the creditors, the credit limit, payment amount, when payment was made, amount owed, and remaining time on the loan.
For example, if you were fifteen days late on your February car payment, that will be on the report. If your credit limit is $5,000 and you have used up $4990 in credit, that will also be noted.
- Public Record- This category includes any kind of state or county records that impact credit. This means tax liens (federal, state, or city), bankruptcy, and monetary judgments. Each of these will contain details of each record including: when it was filed, how it was filed, along with the amount of money involved in the situation.
The exact format of each credit report may differ depending on which scoring method is used but all of this information will be in the report.
Data not included will be your gender, race, marital status, religion, ethnicity, criminal activity, income, or medical history. Also, the report will not include your credit score. The credit report is just that, a report out of your credit history free from any judgment of its content.
That comes later.
The Credit Bureaus
There are three credit bureaus that collect information for your credit report: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
Equifax- Equifax was founded in 1899. The agency gathers, stores, and maintains information on more than 400 million credit holder across the globe. They take in over $1.5 billion in annual revenue and employ over 7,000 people in 14 different countries.
TransUnion- The third largest credit agency was founded in 1968. Currently, it does business out of more than 250 offices in the United Stated and 24 other countries.
Experian- This agency was founded in 1980 in Nottingham, England. The company operates in 36 countries with over 15,000 employees.
When a creditor examines your credit, the report is coming from one or all of these three agencies. This information is turned into a credit score.
The most common credit scoring system in use today is called the FICO. This is an acronym for the Fair Isaac Corporation who actually developed the scoring system. The main elements of the report as calculated by FICO are:
Credit Inquiries- How many inquiries have been made (i.e. how many credit reports have been ordered on you over the past year)?
Credit history- How long have you been using credit?
Payment history- Have you had any late payments? If so, how many? The history will be looked at for all of your accounts.
Credit type- What type of credit are you applying for? Is it secured or not secured?
Debt ratio- What is your monthly debt to income percentage?
The actual score developed will fall somewhere between 300 and 850. The higher the score, the better. In general, over 700 is considered good risk and below 600 is considered a high risk.
For more information on your credit report, your credit score, and how they impact your financial well-being, click on our Credit Report Guide.