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Frequently Asked Questions About Credit Reports

What is a credit report? You can think of a credit report as a snapshot of all of the decisions that you have made with your money, your debt, and your finances, for your entire adult life. Each person will have his or her own credit report, that is unique only to them. It is not something you are able to share, although some of the things that are on your spouse's credit report may also appear on your credit report.

Why is your credit report important? It all comes down to a number. Everything that appears on your credit report is taken into consideration, and it gets summarized as a three digit number. This number can be anywhere between 850 and 300. This score is often called your “credit score” or your “FICO score”. The higher the number, the better your score is considered to be. People with high credit scores are going to have a much easier time getting accepted for loans, getting a credit card with a low interest rate, and convincing a landlord that they are trustworthy enough for the landlord to accept their rental application. Those with low credit scores are going to have trouble finding an apartment, getting a loan, and getting a credit card. Life is easier if you have a high credit score.

Don't know what your credit score is? You can get a copy of your credit report from one of several companies. Your credit report will have your credit score, information about what is listed on your credit report, a list of what companies have made inquires into your credit report lately, and your personal information (like your name, and social security number). Often, there will be a section of your credit report that points out things that may be questionable. It is a good idea to review your credit report from time to time, to make certain that everything is correct, and up to date.

Where should you go to get a copy of your credit report? Choose one of the “Big Three” credit bureaus. Their names are Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. The company you got your credit card from, or the bank you got your loan from, will report that information to at least one of the “Big Three” credit bureaus. Each credit bureau obtains it's information independently from the other two, which means that there is potential that the one credit bureau you went with will not have all the information. For a much more informative copy of your credit report, you can have any of these credit bureaus do a three-in-one credit report for you. This kind of credit report compiles information from all three of the big credit bureaus.