A credit report is a detailed summary of your credit activity and history. It’s a critical aspect of your financial life and therefore, carries a lot of weight in some circumstances. The information included in the report can affect your buying power, employment opportunity, ability to rent an apartment or buy a home as well as purchasing insurance.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve had a credit card or not. If you’ve ever borrowed a loan, or simply paid a utility bill, chances are either one or all the credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, or Experian) are tracking your “creditworthiness.”
According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), each credit bureau has a slightly different credit report, but all credit reports contain basically the same categories of information.
1. Personal information: includes your name, address, social security number, date of birth, and employment information.
2. Credit account information: includes each of the accounts you’ve established with lenders (credit cards, mortgage, etc.), account balances, your payment history, and whether you made your payments on time or not.
3. Credit inquiries: includes a list of all the entities that have had access to your credit report within the last two years.
4. Debt collection: overdue debt that has been forwarded to external debt collections
5. Public records: has a record of bankruptcy, foreclosure, or civil suits.
A credit report is an important asset and should be checked at least once per year. Checking it can help you identify mistakes,errors, or identity theft on your credit report.
It is not uncommon for incorrect information to popup on a credit report. For this reason, check to ensure your information is correct, accurate, and up-to-date. In case of incorrect information, reach out to credit bureaus and the lenders that gave out false information to get the mistakes rectified.
In the case of identity theft, look out for:
If you think you are a victim of identity theft,visit IdentityTheft.govto report it.
You are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus every year. You can access these reports for free at annualcreditreport.com,which is authorized by federal law. But, in response to the challenges brought about by the pandemic, you can get your free report every week from the same website until the end of April 2022.
Some experts recommend spreading out your three free reports over the year. For instance, you can check your Experian report in January, TransUnion in May, and Equifax in September to keep tabs on your credit throughout the year.
Also, you can get six free Equifax credit reports each year by creating an Equifax account from their website or by calling 1-866-349-5191.
Finally, as part of the Fair Credit Reporting Act(FCRA), you're entitled to a free credit report if you get an adverse action notice. An adverse action notice letter is given if a company has denied your credit application. The notice provides you with the name, address, and phone number of the credit bureau you should request for the credit report, and should be done within 60 days of getting the notice.