Your credit history is important to a lot of people: mortgage lenders, banks, utility companies, prospective employers, and more. So it's especially important that you understand your credit report, credit score, and the companies that compile that information, credit bureaus. Find answers to some of the most common, and most important, questions about credit, provided by the Federal Reserve Board.

Your Credit Report

Q: What is a credit report?

A: A credit report is a record of your credit history that includes information about:

Your identity. Your name, address, full or partial Social Security number, date of birth, and possibly employment information.

Your existing credit. Information about credit that you have, such as your credit card accounts, mortgages, car loans, and student loans. It may also include the terms of your credit, how much you owe your creditors, and your history of making payments.

Your public record. Information about any court judgments against you, any tax liens against your property, or whether you have filed for bankruptcy.

Inquiries about you. A list of companies or persons who recently requested a copy of your report.

Q: Why is a credit report important?

A: Your credit report is important because lenders, insurers, employers, and others may obtain your credit report from credit bureaus to assess how you manage financial responsibilities. For example:

  • Lenders may use your credit report information to decide whether you can get a loan and the terms you get for a loan (for example, the interest rate they will charge you).
  • Insurance companies may use the information to decide whether you can get insurance and to set the rates you will pay.
  • Employers may use your credit report, if you give them permission to do so, to decide whether to hire you.
  • Telephone and utility companies may use information in your credit report to decide whether to provide services to you.
  • Landlords may use the information to determine whether to rent an apartment to you.

Q: Who collects and reports credit information about me?

A: There are three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — that gather and maintain the information about you that is included in your credit report. The credit bureaus then provide this information in the form of a credit report to companies or persons that request it, such as lenders from whom you are seeking credit.

Q: Where do credit bureaus get their information?

A: Credit bureaus get information from your creditors, such as a bank, credit card issuer, or auto finance company. They also get information about you from public records, such as property or court records. Each credit bureau gets its information from different sources, so the information in one credit bureau's report may not be the same as the information in another credit bureau's report.

Q: How can I get a free copy of my credit report?

A: You can get one free credit report every twelve months from each of the nationwide credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com or calling (877) 322-8228.

You will need to provide certain information to access your report, such as your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth.

You can order one, two, or all three reports at the same time, or you can request these reports at various times throughout the year. The option you choose will depend on the goal of your review. A report generated by one of the three major credit bureaus may not contain all of the information pertaining to your credit history. Therefore, if you want a complete view of your credit record at a particular moment, you should examine your report from each bureau at the same time. However, if you wish to detect any errors and monitor changes in your credit profile over time, you may wish to review a single credit report every four months.


To learn more tips for managing your credit, visit www.federalreserve.gov.