What is a Credit Report and How Does it Affect Your Credit Score?

A credit report is a financial document that contains information about your credit history, provided by lenders and creditors to credit reporting agencies such as Experian(r), Equifax(r) and TransUnion(r). Credit reports are used by businesses that lend money or offer insurance.

The information in a credit report includes personal information, credit account history, credit inquiries and public records. Lenders consider many of these factors when determining your creditworthiness.

What is a credit report?

A credit report is a summary of personal information like identifying details, credit account information including open loans and credit card accounts as well as up to seven years of payment records (noting whether they were paid on time or late) and public record information such as bankruptcy filings. It also contains information about inquiries into your credit. These can include those from lenders, insurers and employers. Inquiries remain on a credit report for two years, but do not impact the credit score.

A credit report is prepared by three nationwide consumer reporting agencies called credit bureaus. These are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. When a lender, insurer or potential employer checks your credit, they request a copy of your credit report from one of the three credit bureaus. The credit bureaus then combine the information in your credit file and prepare a report for the company making the inquiry. Consumers are allowed to obtain a free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus once every 12 months.

What is a credit score?

A credit score is a three-digit number that summarizes your credit history and how you pay your bills. Lenders buy credit reports and scores from the three major credit bureaus — Experian(r), Equifax(r) and TransUnion (r). They use them to decide whether or not to lend you money, what interest rate they will charge you and other terms of the loan.

The number is calculated using formulas that consider your financial history. It’s based on your track record of paying back debts on time, how long you have had credit accounts and the types of accounts you have (credit cards, retail accounts, installment loans, finance company accounts and mortgages). The amount you owe, your current balances and how much available credit you are using can also affect your score. Other factors include public records like liens and judgments, as well as your employment history and credit inquiries. Each of these categories is given a different weight.

How can I get a copy of my credit report?

By law, you are entitled to one free credit report from each of the nationwide credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) every 12 months. Credit reports list a history of your financial behavior and may affect whether lenders extend you credit.

You can request your free annual credit report through a toll-free number or online. You can also pay for a credit monitoring service that will provide you with your reports and scores on a regular basis.

A credit report shows inquiries that other companies made to your credit file. Lenders usually check your report before extending you credit. However, some of these inquiries are considered “hard” and will show up on your report for two years. Other inquiries are considered “soft” and do not affect your score.

At checkmyfile, we offer all our customers the option to download their Multi Agency Credit Report in PDF format whenever they choose. Just log in to your account, and click the ‘View downloadable version’ button on the bottom of your Credit Report.

How do I check my credit score?

Getting your credit report and checking your score is easy and, in most cases, free. It’s important to check both your report and your score regularly to make sure the information is correct and up-to-date. It also helps you spot errors that can hurt your credit and signs of identity theft.

It’s also smart to check your score before applying for a loan or credit card. Creditors use different scores to evaluate applicants and may have different criteria for determining whether to approve an application.

There are many ways to get your credit score, including through online services like Credit Karma and Credit Sesame. You can also get it through some credit card issuers and banks, such as American Express, Chase, Citibank and Capital One. Your score can vary slightly because not all creditors report to the same credit bureaus. The three major credit reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, each have a unique set of data that creates your score.