How many credit reports are there?
In the U.S. there are three: Experian, Transunion, and Equifax
What is in a credit report?
- Personal Identification Information- This section includes your name, current address, previous address(es), social security, employment, and other names you might have had.
- Credit Account Information- This section includes all credit accounts (open and closed). It shows the payment history, date opened, credit limit, current balance, and high balance(what is the highest the balance has been). It also includes a pay status which is whether the account is in good standing or not. Each account will also show a type of account. The type can be revolving or installment, as well as individual or joint.
- Public Records- This will be records of public action, such as bankruptcies and foreclosures.
- Negative Accounts- This is going to be accounts like collection accounts. Collection accounts can be for anything not just credit accounts. It can be a medical bill, library fine, or anything that you owe money for.
- Promotional Inquiries- These are people/businesses who have pulled your credit report for promotional items. This might also be inquiries from if you pulled it from a free credit report site. These inquiries can only be seen by you and they do not affect your score.
- Account Review Inquiries- These are businesses that have pulled your credit for an account review or business transaction. These again are only seen by you and do not affect your credit score. This may be your credit card pulling your credit to change your terms.
- Inquiries- These are inquiries used to establish your credit. These are often inquiries for mortgages, loans, credit cards, and occasionally land lords and insurance. These can be seen by others and do affect your credit.
How often should I check my credit report?
At least once of year. Many people have mistakes on their credit report, and the only way to check them is to check your credit report at least once a year. It takes time to fix mistakes, so you want to catch them well before you try to get a loan. You are entitled to a free credit report from each company annually. You can get it HERE. If you have never checked your credit report, it would be wise to check them all at once. If you have checked your credit report before, you may want to spread out your free ones across the year.
What if I find an error?
Many of the companies have this information on their website, and many you can do online. When you receive your credit report, there should be information on how to start a dispute/investigation. When you start a dispute or investigation, you may need proof of what ever you are claiming (this is especially true for information such as addresses, names, and personal information). For accounts that have errors they will contact the company and ask them to verify the information on the report. It can be very long and annoying process. Once the investigation is complete, the company will send you a notice of it's completion and you will receive a new credit report.
What if the dispute comes back and says the information is right, but I know it is wrong?
I definitely understand this one. I once checked my credit report to find two collections on it. Both were from medical accounts that I had no idea I owed money on. They were both due to billing/insurance issues (and ironically neither medical office ever sent me a bill). These took some work on my part of calling the medical offices and the insurance companies. In the end they told me they would remove it from my credit report, but I filed another dispute stating that with the credit bureaus, just in case. Disputes can be very annoying, but stand strong. You should also keep copies of everything concerning your dispute, and make sure that it stays removed.
Hopefully that makes things a little clearer, but feel free to ask any questions! Next week we will look at credit scores.
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