Credit Reports Explained

Do I have a credit report? 

If you have a credit card, any other kind of loan or even unpaid bills, there is a credit report about you!

What is a credit report? 

Basically, it is information (a history) about what you owe and how reliable you have been about paying your debts and bills on time. This information is compiled by agencies called credit reporting agencies. These agencies get the information from banks, credit unions, loan companies, businesses, utility companies, landlords, child support offices and just about any place else you can think of to whom you owe money.

Why should I care what is on my credit report? 

Lenders will look at your credit report before making a loan to you. If you apply to rent an apartment, the landlord will most likely review your credit report to decide if he will rent to you. Many insurance companies will determine if they will insure you based, in part, on your credit report. If you want to buy or lease a car, furniture or appliances over time, the store will review your credit first. Even many employers will look at your credit report before offering you a job.

What does it mean to have “good credit” or “bad credit”?

The answer to this question depends on who is evaluating your credit and what factors are important to them. Financial institutions have certain criteria they consider depending on the type of loan or credit applied for. A landlord or employer may look at your credit report a little differently depending upon how important your credit worthiness is to him. The credit reporting agencies, which collect your credit information, most commonly use a score called a “FICO” score to rate your credit. FICO stands for Fair Isaac Company, the company that created and computes this credit score. A FICO score can range from 300 to 850. The higher your FICO score, the better your credit rating. Having a high score is not only important to qualify for a loan; a high score will also determine your interest rate. Lenders offer people with higher scores the lowest interest rates for a loan. For example, many banks who offer home mortgages offer the lowest rates to people who have a credit score of 740 or above. Some insurance companies will use your credit score as part of they way they determine how much they will charge you in premiums.

How is my credit score determined?

Your credit score is based on a number of factors such as:

  • Your past payment history
  • How much debt you owe
  • How long you’ve used credit
  • How often you’ve applied for new credit and whether you’ve taken on new debt [recently]
  • Types of credit you use, such as credit cards, retail accounts and mortgages

How do you get a copy of your credit report?

By law you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report each year from each of the three credit reporting agencies, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax, by viewing or you can get your free copies by calling 1-877-322-8228. You should order a report from all three agencies because each collects its information separately and may have different information.

How do I find out my FICO score?

Your free credit report will not contain your FICO score. You can obtain a copy or your credit scores from

What should I do if you see a mistake or want to dispute information on one of my credit reports?

You should immediately contact the agency about your dispute or correction:

Where can I find more information on this topic?

For more information about credit reports, credit scores and other valuable information sources go to