Your credit report is a collection of information about you and your credit history, and it can have a major impact on certain areas of your life.


Know whether you have a credit report. You have a credit report if you have applied for any of the following:

  • Credit card

  • Student Loan

  • Auto loan

  • Mortgage

Understand who looks at your credit report.

  • Potential creditors

  • Landlords

  • Potential and current employers

  • Government licensing agencies

  • Insurance underwriters

Know what these entities are asking.

  • How promptly do you pay your bills?

  • How many credit cards do you have?

  • What is the total amount of credit extended to you?

  • How much do you owe on all of your accounts?

Be aware of the consequences of credit mistakes. Any negative information found on your credit report (late payments, bankruptcies, too much debt) can have a serious impact on your ability to:

  • Get credit

  • Get a new job

  • Advance in your current job

  • Rent or buy a home

Know what is on your credit report.

  • Personal identifying information – name, Social Security number, date of birth, current and previous addresses and employers.

  • Credit account information – date opened, credit limit, balance, monthly payment and payment history.

  • Public record information – bankruptcy, tax and other liens, judgments and, in some states, overdue child support.

  • Inquiries – companies that request your credit report.

Know what is NOT on your credit report.

  • Checking or savings account information

  • Medical history

  • Race

  • Gender

  • Religion

  • National origin

  • Political preference

  • Criminal record

Be aware of how long information stays on your report.

  • Positive information – indefinitely

  • Inquiries – six months to two years

  • Most negative information – seven years

  • Some bankruptcies – ten years

Request your free credit report. You’re entitled to one free credit report a year from each of the three credit reporting agencies - Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. You may request your free credit report at Be wary of websites with similar names that may require you to subscribe to a service in order to receive your “free” credit report.


Check your three credit reports at least once a year. Make sure the information is accurate and be sure to report information that is not. You can check all three at once, or one at a time throughout the year.


Know your credit score. Your credit report is free, but you usually have to pay to receive a credit score. You will be given an opportunity to purchase your credit score when requesting your free credit report. Various components of your credit history are evaluated to determine your credit score, including:

  • Payment history

  • Outstanding credit owed

  • Length of time your credit has been active

  • Types of credit you have

  • Acquisition of new credit

Improve your credit score. If you’ve had financial problems, take these steps to clean up your credit. It takes some time but will be well worth the effort.

  • Pay off your current debt.

  • Make your payments on time.

  • Don’t sign up for any new credit cards.

  • Stop using your credit cards for new purchases.

  • Keep your oldest account open, even if you no longer use it.