A credit report is basically a file about you kept by lenders and banks. As annoying as it may be, it's still perfectly legal for them to gather all sorts of details about you. In turn, you have the right to check this file - and you should do so and inquire regularly about your credit report and your credit score, particularly when you plan a big financial change, for instance, before applying for a loan or a mortgage, you should always take time and review your credit report. This allows you not only to plan your moves accurately, but also to dispute any mistakes that might occur in the report.
The credit report is an accurate record of your financial activities, including the accounts you have, the credits you may have taken so far, any late payments, and the actions started against you for financial reasons. This report is used to determine your credit rating - which is a number indicating your financial risks.
The information typically included in a credit report refers to your personal identification data, credit information, public record information and a list of recent inquiries. The personal identification data, as you may expect, means your name, social security number, address (current and previous addresses), employer (also current and previous), your birth date, and so on. If applicable, your file may contain similar information about your spouse.
The credit information is your financial history - your accounts, loans and repayment records for the past two years, from all the banks, lenders, retailers, card issuers, other credit companies, and so on. The public record information records bankruptcy, monetary judgments and tax liens.
The list of recent inquiries contains the names of those who obtained your credit report in the past year. Various people and organizations may get access to your credit report, usually anybody who can prove a legitimate business interest, creditors, insurers, employers and governmental agencies. This list is kept for one year, while the credit history information is kept for seven years, and, if you file for bankruptcy, that sticks for ten years.
If you want to see your credit report, you need to check with the respective reporting agency. A reporting agency is a company that maintains and updates the database, and sells the reports to those who are interested. There are many such credit bureaus all over the country, serving local markets, and three major, long-established ones: Equifax, Trans Union and Experian (formerly TRW). These are the companies you need to contact when you want to see your credit report - online, at http://www.equifax.com, http://www.transunion.com and http://www.experian.com, or offline, by calling them or writing to them.
When you ask for your credit report, you will be required to provide your personal info (name, address, social security number, and so on, sometimes for your spouse as well, where applicable). Also, a small fee applies. From Equifax, the 3-in-1 credit report (meaning a complete credit history from all three credit reporting agencies) is $29.95 or $39.95 for the credit report with the credit score included. At Trans Union, the complete 3-in-1 credit report is $29.95 (the online version), with one free credit score. If you want all three credit scores, you'll need to pay an additional $9.95. From Experian, the complete credit reports from the three credit bureaus costs $34.95, and includes a Free Experian credit score. It is important to view results from all three major credit bureaus, because they don't share information among them, and because lenders may report to one or another of these bureaus, so results may not always match.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act entitles each consumer to one free disclosure every 12 months. Also, you can avoid these fees if you request to see your credit report within 60 days of having been denied credit or insurance because of the report. Also, you don't have to pay if you're on welfare, you're unemployed and intend to look for a job within 60 days or your report contains mistakes due to fraud.
This article has been provided courtesy of Creditor Web. Creditor Web offers great credit card articles available for reprint and other tools to help you search and compare credit card offers.