Credit report definition

Writer and editor - Bryan Robinson | Updated on 2023-01-11

What is a credit report?

A credit report is a record of your credit history that includes information about your borrowing and repayment habits. Lenders use credit reports to help them decide whether to approve you for a loan or credit card and what interest rate to charge you.

Your credit report also may be used by landlords, employers, and others to decide whether to give you housing, a job, or insurance.

You are entitled to one free credit report every 12 months from each of the three national credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. You can request your free report online at AnnualCreditReport.com, by phone at 1-877-322-8228, or by mail using the Annual Credit Report Request Form.

What information is included in a credit report?

A credit report includes information on where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you’ve been sued or filed for bankruptcy. National Credit Reporting Agencies (NCRAs) collect and maintain the data in your report.

A credit report is sometimes called a consumer report or just a credit file. It’s a record of your credit history that includes information about:

  • Your bill-paying history
  • The number and types of accounts you have
  • Whether you pay your bills on time
  • How much debt you have
  • Public records, such as bankruptcies, judgments, foreclosures, lawsuits and tax liens
  • Inquiries from companies who have checked your credit
  • Personal information, like your name and address
  • Employment history
  • Information about your creditors and financial accounts, including the type of account, your balance, and your payment history

Credit reporting agencies get their information from creditors, such as banks, credit card issuers, and auto finance companies. They also may get information from public records, like property deeds and court records.

How is a credit report used?

Credit reports are used by lenders to determine whether or not to extend a loan to an individual, and if so, at what interest rate. They are also used by landlords to decide whether or not to rent to someone, and by employers to determine whether or not to hire someone. In short, a credit report can have a major impact on a person’s ability to get approved for housing, credit, and employment.

Who can access my credit report?

Your credit report is maintained by the three major credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — and is available to lenders, landlords, employers, and other businesses that use it to assess your risk as a borrower or employee. It’s important to check your credit report regularly to make sure that the information it contains is accurate and up-to-date. You can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies once every 12 months at annualcreditreport.com.

Check out these related articles: Credit Checks page, and on Credit history.

How often is my credit report updated?

Your credit report is updated regularly, typically every 30 days. When lenders request your credit report, the information included in that report may change.

Credit reporting companies get information from your creditors, such as banks and credit card companies, about your repayment history. They also get information from public records, like property tax assessments and court records.

How can I get a copy of my credit report?

You can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) once every 12 months at AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also request a free copy of your credit report by calling 1-877-322-8228.

If you’re a victim of identity theft, you can get an extended free credit report that covers the past seven years. You can request this extended report by calling 1-866-497-7422.

In addition to your free annual credit report, you may be entitled to a free credit score from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. You can request your free credit score by visiting www.creditscorecard.com.

Bryan Robinson

Bryan Robinson
Writer and editor


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