Credit Reports: Your Credit History

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Your Own Financial Report Card

A credit history is a detailed record of your credit activity. It reflects your ability to handle credit and submit timely payments. Learn more about your credit history and how to keep it clean.

What's in a Credit History?

Your credit history is contained in a credit report that's kept on file by credit bureaus. This report might include:

  • List of credit card accounts
  • How promptly you've paid off credit cards and loans
  • How well you have handled other bills, such as rent and utilities
  • Your checking and savings account histories, including bounced checks
  • Your total outstanding debts
  • How much credit you still have available on your cards

Who Has Access to It?

Anyone considering giving you credit or a loan--including credit card issuers, auto-financing companies, college loan issuers, and insurance companies--can legally access this information. Landlords and potential employers can also view your credit report.

Who Stores this Information?

Credit bureaus are independent agencies that collect information on people who use credit. They act as central distribution centers for credit information, making it easy for potential lenders to access your credit history quickly and easily. All credit bureaus should have the exact same information on your history.

A number of laws regulate credit bureaus and protect your rights. For more information, contact your regional Federal Trade Commission office, or write to:

Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
(202) 326-2222

Checking Your Credit Report

You should review your credit report at least once a year. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you have the right to see a copy of your report, which is maintained by three national credit bureaus and may also be collected by local credit agencies. If you have been denied credit in the past sixty days, you are entitled by law to receive a free copy of your report from the credit bureau that issued it. You're also entitled to a free credit report every 12 months, and can access it from the following Web site:

annualcreditreport.com

If you wish to view your report more than once a year, Credit bureaus will issue you another copy of your credit report for a nominal fee. Reference one of these national credit bureaus:

Equifax
(800) 685-1111
www.equifax.com

Experian
(888) 397-3742
www.experian.com

TransUnion
(800) 888-4213
www.transunion.com

Be sure to read our other articles on credit history reports, in order to understand the report, when you should get one, how to avoid to many inquiries on your credit, and what to do when you encounter an error on your report.