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Credit File

Your credit report

Better position yourself for the next time you apply for credit by reviewing your credit report.

After you apply for a new credit card, personal loan or home loan, potential lenders and providers access your credit report to help decide whether to approve you. But just what’s in your credit report, and how can you understand what’s in it enough to be in increase your chances for credit or lending approval?

Our guide below takes you through what’s in your credit report, how long you can expect information to remain in it, getting a copy of your own report and how to correct errors in it that may be holding you back the lending green light.

What is a credit report?

Your credit report is a detailed record of your borrowing history based on information collected from credit card providers, banks, mortgage providers, utility service providers and other institutions you’ve borrowed from.

The information in your credit report is used by lenders to assess your ability to repay debt and manage loans. Lenders and service providers look at your credit report to avoid the risk of giving credit to known defaulters or people with bankruptcy or insolvency issues. If they choose to offer credit to such borrowers, they typically charge a higher rate.

What information is in my credit report?

Your credit report lists applications you’ve made for all forms of credit (whether approved or not), your repayment history, details of any defaults you may have, your current debt and information on the accounts you currently hold.

Among the details contained in your credit report are:

  • Your personal information. Listed in your report are your full name and date of birth, your Social Security number and your employment information.
  • Consumer credit information. This includes any credit applications you’ve made in the last five years, the type of those credit accounts (for example, credit cards, auto loans or mortgages), the account open and close dates, your credit limit or loan amount, the account balance at the time of the report and your payment history.
  • Default notes. Your report includes details of any overdue debts you might have, payments you’ve missed on loans and utility bills and other serious credit infringements.
  • Information that is public record. Credit bureaus collect information that’s held in the public record, including any bankruptcies, foreclosures, lawsuits, wage attachments, liens and judgments made against you.

Do you own a business? Learn what’s on your business credit report

How long is information held on my file?

Lucky, the Fair Credit Report Act limits how long a credit reporting agency can negative report items in your credit report. Neutral or positive items can be reported indefinitely.

The exact period of time that certain types of credit information can remain on your credit history varies by the type of listing.

Type of listingHow long it can remain on your report
Payment history

Up to 7 years for negative history including late payments

Up to 10 for positive history including revolving and installment debt

Credit inquiries

1–2 years for most states whether approved or not

Up to 5 years in New York

Up to 7 years in California

Tax liens

7 years for paid liens

Indefinitely for unpaid liens

Court judgments7 years whether satisfied or not
Bankruptcy

10 years from date filed for Chapter 7 or 11

7 years from date filed for Chapter 13

Collection accounts7 years from first date past due

How do I get a copy of my credit report?

You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report every year from the three nationwide credit reporting companies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Before you apply for a credit card or a loan, consider ordering and examining your credit report for accuracy. You will need to provide your full name, contact information, Social Security number and date of birth.

When examining your report, you could find that it shows you owe on account you’ve since paid off or open credit cards you’ve never owned. Even small errors and typos can affect how a lender scores your default risk. Document these errors and dispute them with each of the credit bureaus.

Order your credit report online

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What should I check on my credit file?

Carefully review your credit history annually to stay on top of making sure that lenders see only the most accurate picture of your financial health. Make sure that each of the elements below are correct, and document any problems you find to report to the bureau for fixing.

  • Your personal information. Ensure that your name, your Social Security number and your employment history are correct. If you find a diversion from this information, report it immediately to limit any chance of identity theft.
  • Open accounts. If your report shows that you owe on an account you have since fully repaid or closed or credit or store cards you’ve never used, call the credit reporting bureau first and then call the provider to find out how to resolve the issue.
  • Incorrectly listed payments or defaults. You may find negative information that’s reported incorrectly on your report, such as late or missed payments. Highlight anything that you believe is not correct and dispute it with both the reporting bureau and the creditor or institution that provided the information.
  • Duplicate listings. Are any of your accounts listed more than once? Especially with collections, you’ll want to make sure that the same account is not listed multiple times throughout your report.
  • Cosigner information. If you find that you’re listed as a cosigner on a loan that you did not authorize, contact the reporting bureau immediately.

How do I deal with incorrect listings in my report?

To correct errors in your credit report, it can help to contact both the credit reporting bureau and the source of the mistake — either the bank, credit card provider or lender who reported it.

  1. Contact the credit reporting bureau. By speaking with a representative, you may be able to remove the error or convince the bureau to contact the credit provider on your behalf to have it removed.
  2. File a dispute online. Each of the credit reporting agencies offer the ability to dispute errors in your credit report online.
  3. Contact the credit provider. The provider or lender should have a dispute resolution team or process in place to fix incorrect listings.
  4. Contact the CFPB. If you’re not able to resolve the issue on your own, submit a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an independent federal agency built to protect consumers.

Common questions about credit reports

Adrienne Fuller

Adrienne Fuller leads the publishing team at finder.com. She has one goal: to deliver the accurate and transparent information she wishes she had when she made some of life's important financial decisions. When she's not helping folks save money, she's hiking with her two Catahoulas around her home in San Diego.

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