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Credit Reports and Scores
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Infographic: Learn the Basics of Credit Reports and Scores
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A credit report shows your bill payment history, current debt, and other financial info. Companies and lenders use your credit report to calculate your credit score—a number usually between 300 and 850.
- Check your credit report. Get a free report yearly from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion at the official site AnnualCreditReport.com. Check for errors and for fraudulent accounts.
This report does not include your credit score.
- Fix errors. Write to the credit reporting agency and information provider (bank, credit card company, etc.) detailing any errors or fraud. They’re required to investigate. Keep a copy of your correspondence.
- Know your credit score. Check your score for free on your credit card statement or online account or buy it from a credit reporting agency. Paying bills on time and reducing debt can help improve your score.
Credit reports help lenders decide if they’ll give you credit or approve a loan. The reports also help determine what interest rate they will charge you. Employers, insurers, and rental property owners may also look at your credit report. You won’t know which credit report a creditor or employer will use to check your credit.
Credit reporting agencies (CRAs) collect and maintain information for your credit reports. Each CRA manages its own records and might not have information about all your accounts. Even though there are differences between their reports, no agency is more important than the others. And the information each agency has must be accurate.
It’s important to check your credit reports regularly to make sure that your personal and financial information is accurate. It also helps to make sure nobody’s opened fraudulent accounts in your name. If you find errors on your credit report, take steps to have them corrected.
Free Credit Reports
You are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) once every 12 months. You can request all three reports at once, or space them out throughout the year. Learn about other situations when you can request a free credit report.
Request Your Free Credit Report:
If Your Request for a Free Credit Report is Denied:
Contact the CRA directly to try to resolve the issue. The CRA should tell you the reason they denied your request and explain what to do next. Often, you will only need to provide information that was missing or incorrect on your application for a free credit report.
A credit score is a number that rates your credit risk. It can help creditors determine whether to give you credit, decide the terms they offer, or the interest rate you pay. Having a high score can benefit you in many ways. It can make it easier for you to get a loan, rent an apartment, or lower your insurance rate.
It’s important to make sure your credit report is accurate, so your credit score can be too. You can have multiple credit scores. They’re not calculated by the same credit reporting agencies that maintain your credit reports. Instead, they’re created by different companies or lenders that use their own credit scoring system.
Your free annual credit report does not include your credit score, but you can get your credit score from several sources. Your credit card company may give it to you for free. You could also buy it from one of the three major credit reporting agencies. When you receive your score, you often get information on how you can improve it.
Placing a credit freeze allows you to restrict access to your credit report. This is important after a data breach or identity theft when someone could use your personal information to apply for new credit accounts. Most creditors look at your credit report before opening a new account. But if you’ve frozen your credit report, creditors can’t access it, and probably won’t approve fraudulent applications.
Place a Credit Freeze
Your credit freeze will go into effect the next business day if you place it online or by phone. If you place the freeze by postal mail, it will be in effect three business days after the credit agency receives your request. A credit freeze does not expire. Unless you lift the credit freeze, it stays in effect.
Lift a Credit Freeze
If you want lenders and other companies to be able to access your credit files again, you will need to lift your credit freeze permanently or temporarily. Contact each credit reporting agency. Some require you to use a PIN or password to lift your credit freeze. You can lift your credit freeze as often as you need to, without penalties.
Errors on Your Credit Report
- Credit reporting agency (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion)
- Information provider (bank, credit card company, or other organization that provided the credit reporting agency with inaccurate information)
Negative Information in a Credit Report
Negative information in a credit report can include public records–tax liens, judgments, bankruptcies–that provide insight into your financial status and obligations. A credit reporting company generally can report most negative information for seven years.
Information about a lawsuit or a judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer. Bankruptcies can be kept on your report for up to 10 years, and unpaid tax liens for 15 years.
Fixing Errors in a Credit Report
Anyone who denies you credit, housing, insurance, or a job because of a credit report must give you the name, address, and telephone number of the credit reporting agency (CRA) that provided the report. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you have the right to request a free report within 60 days if a company denies you credit based on the report.
- Contact both the credit reporting agency and the company that provided the information to the CRA.
- Tell the CRA, in writing, what information you believe is inaccurate. Keep a copy of all correspondence.
File a Complaint
Equifax Data Breach
Equifax, one of the three major credit reporting agencies in the U.S., announced a data breach that affects 143 million consumers. The hackers accessed Social Security numbers, birthdates, addresses, and driver’s license numbers.
Equifax has launched a tool that will let you know if you were affected by the breach. Visit Equifax’s website dedicated to this breach to learn if you were impacted. You will need to provide your last name and the last six numbers of your Social Security number.
If you are impacted, Equifax offers you a free credit monitoring service, TrustedIDPremier. However, you won’t be able to enroll in it immediately. You will be given a date when you can return to the site to enroll. Equifax will not send you a reminder to enroll. Mark that date on your calendar, so you can start monitoring your credit as soon as possible.
Medical History Report
A medical history report is a summary of your medical conditions. Insurance companies use these reports to decide if they will offer you insurance. You have the right to get a copy of your report from MIB, the company that manages and owns the reporting database.
Sources of Information for a Medical History Report
If you reported a medical condition on an insurance application, the insurer may want to report it to MIB. An insurer can only share your medical condition with MIB if you give written permission. If you do give permission, the condition will be included in your medical history report.
Your medical history report does not include your complete medical records. Doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, and other health professionals can’t submit information to MIB. The report won’t include every diagnosis, blood test, or a list of your medicines.
A piece of information stays on your report for seven years. Your report can only be updated when you apply for an insurance policy with an MIB-member company, and give them permission to submit your medical conditions to MIB.
How Insurers Use Medical History Reports
When you apply for insurance, the insurer may ask for permission to review your medical history report. An insurance company can only access your report if you give them permission. The report contains the information you included in past insurance applications. Insurers read these reports before they’ll approve life, health, long-term, critical illness, or disability insurance applications.
Request Your Free Medical History Report
- Your minor child
- Someone else, as a legal guardian
- Someone else, as an agent under power of attorney
- You haven’t applied for insurance within the last seven years
- Your insurance policy is through a group or employer policy
- The insurance company isn’t a member of MIB
- You didn’t give an insurer permission to submit your medical reports to MIB
Medical ID Reports and Scams
Use your medical history report to detect if you are a victim of medical ID theft. You may be a victim if there is a report in your name, but you haven’t applied for insurance in the last seven years. Another sign of medical ID theft is if your report includes illnesses that you don’t have.