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Joe Credit 101
Credit 101

Credit Report Basics

What is a credit report?
A report containing detailed information on a person's credit history, including identifying information, credit accounts and loans, bankruptcies, late payments, and recent inquiries. It can be obtained by prospective lenders with the borrower's permission, to determine his or her creditworthiness.  There are three national credit bureaus that maintain credit reports on consumers – TransUnion, Equifax and Experian.

What does a credit report include?
Credit reports include your name, current and former address, employment, credit and loan histories, inquiries, collection records and public records such as bankruptcy filings and tax liens. Each of your credit card and loan records shows your payment history going back 7 years along with other account details such as your credit limit.

Personal Information:Your name, address, Social Security number, date of birth and employment information are used to identify you. These factors are not used in calculating your FICO® score. Updates to this information come from information you supply to lenders.

Accounts Summary:  These are your credit accounts. Most lenders report on each account you have established with them. They generally report the type of account (bankcard, auto loan,mortgage, etc.), the date you opened the account, your credit limit or loan amount, the account balance and your payment history.

Negative Items:  Lenders report delinquency information when you have missed a payment. Credit reporting agencies also collect information on overdue debt from collection agencies, and public record information from state and county courts. Public record information includes: bankruptcies, foreclosures, tax liens, garnishments, legal suits and judgments.

Inquiries:  When you apply for a loan, you authorize your lender to ask for a copy of your credit report. This is how inquiries appear on your credit report. The inquiries section contains a list of lenders who accessed your credit report within the last two years.  The report you see lists “voluntary” inquiries, spurred by your own requests for credit, and may also list “involuntary” inquires, such as when lenders order your report before making you a preapproved credit offer in the mail..

How does information get on my report?
Credit card companies and lenders report your account information to credit bureaus electronically. There’s no fixed schedule for this reporting, but most companies send an update every 30 days. Other records are sent by the courts, tax agencies, and post office.

How long does information stay on my report?
Most information stays on your credit report for 7 years. Personal data (address, name, etc.) and positive records don’t have predetermined expiration terms. Negative records on your credit report have set expiration terms:

How can I get information off my report?
You can remove inaccurate, fraudulent, or expired information from your credit report by submitting a dispute request to the credit bureau. You’ll need to submit a separate letter for each credit bureau. The credit bureaus have 30 days to investigate your dispute. If they can confirm that the information is inaccurate, they’ll remove it and send you a letter with an updated report. If they can’t confirm the correction, they’ll send you a letter of explanation. Accurate information cannot be removed from your credit report before its set expiration date.

What can I do to manage my credit?
Checking your credit report every 6-12 months is the most important thing you can do to keep your credit healthy. Regular credit check-ups help you to spot inaccuracies and signs of identity theft before they cause major financial damage. Making certain your credit reports stay clean of any fraud or inaccuracies can help you save thousands on life’s big purchases.
Now that you have a better understanding of credit basics, you are ready to take charge of your own credit. You can easily order your credit reports from all three credit bureaus. Annual Credit is the ONLY authorized source to get your free annual credit report under federal law. The Fair Credit Reporting Act guarantees you access to a free credit report from each of the three (3) nationwide reporting agencies - Experian, Equifax and Trans Union - every twelve (12) months.
The Federal Trade Commission has received complaints from consumers who thought they were ordering their free annual credit report, but instead paid hidden fees or agreed to unwanted services. Don't be fooled by TV ads, email offers, or online search results. Go to the authorized source when you request your free report.

How do I request my free credit report?
You can request your free report online, by phone or by mail. Visit, call 1-877-322-8228 or fill out the Annual Credit Report request form and mail it to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. No matter how you request your report, you have the option to request all three (3) reports at once or to order one (1) report at a time.
If you have already utilized your free credit report from Annual Credit, then let My Credit My Future be your source for obtaining your credit file.
And if you still have questions about your particular credit situation, sign up for a personalized credit webinar where we can answer all of your credit questions.

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