There are three major nationwide credit reporting agencies (“credit bureaus”): Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Information transmitted by creditors to the credit bureaus becomes a large part of your credit report. Credit bureaus use your credit history to develop a credit score. Your credit history and credit score is then used by lenders (creditors) to decide whether or not to extend credit.
What’s in a credit report?
Credit reports contain detailed information about you and your credit history, including:
- Name, address(es), social security number
- List of creditors (“tradelines”), dates, borrowing experience, payment history
- Credit inquiries – when, where, why you have applied for credit
- Public records such as bankruptcies, foreclosures, repossessions or other legal actions
There is a lot of information on a credit bureau which is why checking your report annually is important.
What’s in a credit score?
Think of a credit report as being like a school report card that lists all of your classes, where the credit score is your GPA (grade point average). Instead of getting a letter-grade (for example A, B, C, D, or F), you earn a three-digit number, called a credit score which generally range from 300 to 850. The higher your score, the lower the credit risk, and vice versa.
Some of the elements used by credit bureaus to calculate a credit score include:
- Payment history
- Amount of outstanding debt
- Length of credit history
- Number of inquiries
- Types (credit cards, loans, mortgages, etc.) of active/inactive credit
Your credit score may vary slightly among credit bureaus.
Free access to your credit report
Checking your credit is an important task that should be done annually. How? It’s easier than you think. The Fair Credit Reporting Act entitles you to one free copy of your credit report every year from each of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies. Order online at annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228.