Published February 13, 2012
Your credit report is just what it sounds like: a detailed write-up of how you have managed your credit. The better your credit score, the more likely you will be granted your credit request and a lower interest rate. Credit bureaus, like Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, gather information from employers, landlords, public records and creditors to generate these reports. According to legal website Nolo.com, credit bureaus sell credit information to anyone who would have a legitimate need to see that information, like a potential landlord, current or prospective creditor, employer, government agency or insurer.
How do I check my credit report?
Every year you are eligible for a free report through annualcreditreport.com, which according to the Federal Trade Commission, is the only website authorized to provide you with your credit report. It was created by the three national credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — and allows you to obtain a report from each of the three consumer credit reporting companies. You can also purchase an additional credit report at any time. You can order one free copy of your report from each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies every 12 months.
You need to provide personal information, such as your Social Security number, to obtain a report. Be careful of other websites that claim they will offer you a free credit report. Annualcreditreport.com is the only one with the legal authorization to do so under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT Act).
How do I read my credit report?
Equifax, Experian and TransUnion have online guides to help you read and understand the credit reports you receive from them. In general, your credit report will include personal information, such as your full name, current and previous addresses, date of birth and Social Security number. It also contains information from public records, including foreclosures, bankruptcy filings and criminal convictions.
The report includes credit information, such as a list of active and closed accounts, account numbers, your monthly payment and payment history for the last two years. The report also contains the names of companies and individuals who have obtained copies of your report in the last two years.
How do I get my credit score?
Your credit score is not included in your free credit report, but you can purchase it from one of the credit bureaus after you receive your annual credit report. Prices range, but you can buy a package that has all three credit reports and the corresponding scores for $39.95. You can also purchase one report for $14.95.