What does Your Credit Report say about You?

Do you know what's in your credit report? If you don't, you should. Your credit report is a rundown of your financial life. Among the things that will be in your credit file is every credit card and loan that you've received in the past seven years (and perhaps beyond). Each account is listed with information about when it was opened, the interest and other terms of the account, how much your monthly payments were, what your payment history has been like over the past two years, the balance owed and any other details that may be important in considering your creditworthiness.

But it’s not just loans and credit cards that are outlined in your credit report. It also sheds light on how you deal with your other financial responsibilities such as power, utility, phone and doctor bills. Missed payments on any these items could also show up in your credit file. Any legal judgments that have been made against you or liens against your property will be noted on your report, as well. Additionally, everyone who looks at your credit report will show up there as an inquiry. If you've applied for a lot of credit cards, loans or other financial transactions, those can all cause your credit rating to drop.

Unfortunately, it only takes one small mistake to show up as a negative entry on your credit report, and it takes a long time for those entries to go away. If a credit card company or other creditor reports your missed or late payment, it will stay on your credit report for seven years. Things only get worse if you file bankruptcy, which can legally remain in your file for ten years.

In order to know for certain what's on your credit report, you need to get a copy of it. The federal government has enacted legislation that allows you to get a copy of your credit report once a year from all three major credit reporting agencies without cost. Be sure to obtain a copy from all three agencies, because what's in your file may vary with each organization and you need to compare all of them to really know what’s being reported about your finances. You should request a copy at least annually from Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

Get to know your credit reports. They can be many pages long, so you'll need to start at the top of each one and look at every entry to determine whether or not it’s valid. There may be cards and accounts still open that you don’t remember from years gone by. You may discover that some other entries contain errors or mistakes. You could even find accounts that don't belong to you at all. Be sure to contact the companies behind any erroneous entries and ask them to help sort out the mistake. The more negative and wrong information you successfully clean off of your credit report, the higher your credit score will be and the more financially responsible you'll look to those who examine your file down the road.


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