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What Your Credit Report Really Says About You — and Who Can See It

How to check a credit report

You always pay your monthly credit card bills on time. You make sure to always update your addresses. You've spent years building good credit history.

But do you know what your credit report is saying about you?

It's a good idea to find out, because your credit report is your ID in the financial world. It chronicles your financial behavior: whether you've paid rent and utilities on time, applied for a loan, or opened up a new credit account. You can also find out who's looking at your profile.

Here's a guide to learning about your credit report and making sure it accurately reports your financial health.

What's in my credit report?

  • Name, birth date, address and previous addresses
  • Social Security Number
  • Who gave you credit and when
  • How much you paid, how often, and if you paid on time
  • Bankruptcy filings, tax liens
  • Any court action that has been taken against you for unpaid bills
  • Who has recently inquired about your credit report, including lenders and card issuers

By law, certain personal information can't appear in your credit report, including:

  • Your race
  • Your religion
  • Your health status
  • Your political affiliation

Who's giving out my credit report?

Credit bureaus collect and sell information about how people repay their debts. They release credit reports to credit card companies, college loan officers and insurance companies. These parties use the information in reviewing loan and insurance applications. Prospective employers and landlords also have access to this information.

How can I get my credit report?

Federal law requires each of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies to give you a free credit report every 12 months if you ask for it. You can request one — or all 3 — of your free annual credit reports from www.annualcreditreport.com.

What if I need to dispute my credit report?

If you find a mistake, notify the credit bureau right away. The bureau is required by law to investigate your complaint and correct or remove any information that isn't accurate. The bureau must send a new report to anyone who has requested it in the past 6 months.

What if I have an explanation?

If there are credit problems in your past, you should be the first to mention them. Attach a brief explanation to your credit application and describe the steps you have taken to correct the problem. It's best to be up-front from the start.

Want to know more? Learn more with our consumer credit reports infographic.

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