Manage Your Money
Master the skills that can help you manage money throughout life.
How to Manage Your Credit Report
Learn the best way to handle this key financial report
When you apply for a credit card, a loan to buy a house or car, or a line of credit to pay for a large purchase, the lender will review your credit report. A credit report is your financial report card. It provides your bill payment and loan repayment history, the amount of credit you have available, your monthly debts, and other types of information that can help a potential lender determine whether you are a good or bad credit risk. Your credit score, which is key to whether and how much you can borrow, is based on your credit report.
Know what lenders look for
Understanding what types of information most lenders evaluate is important. Lenders pay attention to the following things:
- Your bill-paying history
- How many accounts you have and what kind
- Late payments
- Longevity of accounts
- Collections actions
- Outstanding debt
- Public records
Find out what's in a credit report
A credit report lists your personal information and includes a summary of all your past and present credit accounts, as well as inquiries made by lenders into your credit record. Most credit reports contain four different types of information:
- Date of birth
- Social Security Number
- Telephone number
- Employment information
- Type of accounts (bank card, auto loan, mortgage, etc.)
- Date account was opened
- Credit limit or loan amount
- Telephone number
- Account balance
- Payment history
- List of lenders who accessed your credit report within the last two years
- Dates of inquiries
- Company requesting your credit record
- Delinquency information
- Overdue debt from collection agencies
- Public record information (e.g., bankruptcies, foreclosures, tax liens, garnishments, and legal suits, etc.)
Check out AIE's Interactive Credit Report to learn more about the information that's included on a credit report.
Check your credit report annually
There are three credit reporting agencies (sometimes referred to as "credit bureaus") that can provide your credit report — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. To be on the safe side, request your credit report from all three credit reporting agencies. Each credit bureau receives different information about you from different sources. For example, your credit card company may report to Equifax, but not TransUnion or Experian.
How to request your free credit report
Every consumer is entitled to one free report a year from each credit reporting agency. To request yours, visit www.annualcreditreport.com. If you go directly to the credit reporting agencies, you may incur a fee.
How to dispute incorrect data on your report
If you review and find a mistake on your credit report (for example, an account that's not yours, wrong loan amounts, payments you made that are not shown, etc.), you can dispute the information online or call and request a reporting form. You can also send a letter explaining the mistake. In this case, be sure to include copies of the credit report with faulty information highlighted. Credit reporting agencies don't share files with each other, so you'll need to contact each agency to make sure its information is correct.
Contact information for disputes
- Disputes by mail only
- (P.O. Box 674402 Houston, TX 77267)
- To dispute an item, call the 800-number listed on each individual report
- Call (800) 916-8800
Know these credit reporting facts
- In case of a dispute, a creditor has 30 days to respond to the discrepancy and remove any admitted error. If they do not admit to an error, you can file a short statement about the issue to be placed on your report. The creditor cannot try to collect on the account during the dispute.
- The law is on your side. If you prove information is incorrect and it is not removed, you can sue for damages, court costs, and attorney fees.
- Anyone who obtains your credit report without authorization or gives it to unauthorized persons may be fined up to $5,000 or imprisoned.