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Your credit report is one of the most important sources of information about you. Lenders use it to decide if you’re a good risk for a home or car loan. Landlords can access it to find out if you’re likely to pay rent on time. It determines your line of credit at retail stores. Even some employers check credit history before they hire someone.

Your credit report includes all the information listed below.

Personal Information

  • Your name
  • Names or nicknames that you used in the past to obtain credit or get installment loans
  • Your Social Security number
  • Your current and former addresses
  • Your date of birth
  • Your phone numbers

Credit Accounts

  • Past and current credit accounts

These include credit cards, mortgages, car loans and retail accounts. The dates that the accounts were opened and closed are shown. Not all creditors report to the consumer reporting bureaus. Gas card companies and small local retailers are examples of those that usually don’t.

  • Credit limits

Potential lenders are very interested in how much credit was extended to you and how much of it you’ve used. They don’t like to see balances exceed 30 percent of the limit on a credit card, and around 10 percent is even better. Let’s say that a department store card has a limit of $2,000. The balance owed at any given time shouldn’t be higher than $600, but $200 is ideal.

  • Account balances
  • Payment history

The credit report shows every single payment on every account. Making payments on time is one of the biggest factors in your credit score. Just one late payment has a negative impact and stays on the report for seven years. Conversely, a good payment history raises your score.

Public Records

  • Foreclosures

Foreclosure is a legal process in which a lender, such as a bank or credit union, tries to get the balance of a home loan from a borrower who has stopped making payments. Usually, the bank sells the house in order to recoup its losses.

  • Bankruptcies

Bankruptcy is a legal procedure in which someone is given full or partial relief from debts that they can’t pay.

  • Tax liens

If you haven’t paid your taxes or arranged a payment plan, the government may lay claim to some of your assets. That’s called a tax lien, and it does negatively affect your credit score.

  • Civil judgments

A civil judgment is a debt that you owe if someone brought a lawsuit against you and won.

Foreclosures, tax liens and civil judgments stay on credit reports for seven years. Most bankruptcies are listed for 10 years.

Collections

Unpaid debts that have gone into collection are listed as negative marks.

Rental Accounts

If you lease an apartment or rent a house, the account and payment history are reported.

Inquiries

The report shows the names of businesses, creditors, landlords and others who have done a credit check. Depending on your credit history, having a large number of inquiries can work against you.

Overdue Child Support

Overdue child support may or may not be reported by a child support agency or local, state or federal government.

What Is Not on Your Credit Report?

  • Medical bills

Medical and dental bills are not typically reported by doctors and hospitals. However, collection agencies may report delinquent accounts.

  • Arrest records
  • Specific purchases

By law, you’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months. There are three nationwide reporting companies: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. You should request a copy from each company, and any discrepancies should be minor.

A recent study conducted by the Federal Trade Commission revealed that 5 percent of U.S. consumers found errors on their credit reports that negatively affected their scores. Even a slightly lower score can result in being denied credit and paying higher interest rates on loans.

Keeping current on this important information could make all the difference in your financial health. Check your credit report once a year, and be quick to dispute errors.