Guide to your credit history and your free online report |
Credit File

Understanding your credit report

We value our editorial independence, basing our comparison results, content and reviews on objective analysis without bias. But we may receive compensation when you click links on our site. Learn more about how we make money from our partners.

Increase your chances of being approved for a credit card or loan by monitoring your credit history.

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, loan providers and other institutions you’ve borrowed from.

Why is it important?

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, date of birth, phone number, address, your Social Security number and your employment information.
  • Consumer credit information. This includes any credit applications you’ve made in the last two years, the type credit accounts (revolving and installment), 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.
  • Collections. Unpaid debts and accounts that are default or in collections will also be listed.
  • Credit inquiries. Your report includes any credit applications you’ve made in the last two years whether you’ve been approved or not.
  • Information that is public record. Credit bureaus collect information that’s held in the public record, including any bankruptcies, foreclosures, lawsuits, liens and judgments made against you.

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

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

Details Features
Experian Credit Report
Experian Credit Report
Get your credit report and FICO score for just $1 with enrollment in Experian CreditWorks credit monitoring. Cancel anytime.
  • 3 credit reports
  • Track your FICO® score
  • Easy to use dashboard
Go to site More info
Get quarterly access to your most widely used FICO® Scores and a 3-bureau credit report
  • Get quarterly access to your most widely used FICO® Scores
  • Credit report change alerts
  • FICO® Score analysis
Go to site More info
TransUnionCredit Report
TransUnionCredit Report
TransUnion credit score, monitoring and identity theft insurance.
  • Unlimited updates to your TransUnion credit score
  • Up to $1,000,000 in identity theft insurance
  • Personalized debt analysis
Go to site More info
Equifax Business Credit Monitor
Equifax Business Credit Monitor
Monitor your key business relationships to protect your company from losses.
  • Bankruptcy Alert
  • Derogatory Alerts
  • New Inquiry Alert
Go to site More info
$1 for a seven-day trial to get access to your credit score and credit report from TransUnion.
  • Credit reports from all 3 bureaus
  • Email alerts when your credit report changes
  • Up to $1,000,000 in identity theft insurance
Go to site More info
Details Features
Self Lender — Credit Builder Account
Self Lender — Credit Builder Account
Savings account that helps you build credit.
  • No hard credit inquiry
  • Available in all 50 states
  • It typically takes 60 days for new accounts to appear on credit reports
Go to site More info
Online credit repair service.
  • Credit report repair
  • 24/7 credit monitoring and alerts
  • Score tracker and analysis
Go to site More info
CuraDebt: Tax Debt Relief Free Consultation
CuraDebt: Tax Debt Relief Free Consultation
Debt relief professionals helping individuals and small businesses nationwide.
  • Free consultation and 100% confidential
  • 15+ years experience
  • Debt relief help for credit cards, medical bills and taxes
Go to site
The Credit Pros: Legal Credit Repair
The Credit Pros: Legal Credit Repair
Online credit repair service that gives free consultations.
  • Unlimited disputes to help clean up your credit
  • Monitor your credit with real-time alerts
  • Protects your identity on the dark web
  • Updated credit report and score each month
Go to site More info
Lexington Law Credit Repair
Lexington Law Credit Repair
Law firm that specializes in credit repair.
  • Remove incorrect listings from your credit file
  • Get free access to your credit report
  • Personalized credit repair services
Go to site More info
Credit Firm Professional Credit Repair
Credit Firm Professional Credit Repair
Professional credit repair service that can help you create a step by step action plan. Cancel anytime.
  • Free credit consultation
  • Over 15 years of credit repair experience
  • Get help optimizing your credit file
Go to site

Who can pull my credit report?

You’re not the only one who has access to your credit report. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, your credit report can be pulled by the following individuals and organizations seeking consumer information for legitimate business reasons.

  • Banks and credit card companies. Credit reports help financial institutions evaluate your creditworthiness when you apply for a product or service.
  • Businesses. Any company that needs to view your credit report in order to conduct a service or sell a product.
  • Potential employers. Some hiring companies ask permission from potential employees to pull a credit report to learn how they handle their finances. Poor credit scores could signal mishandling of money, lack of organization or financial troubles that could lead to fraud or theft.
  • Insurance companies. Underwriters will pull your report to assess financial risk when drawing up your policy.
  • Credit monitoring services. These are hired companies that act on your behalf to alert you when your credit profile has changed.
  • Government agencies. The government can access your report for a number of reasons including: licensing, identification, government benefits eligibility or to determine child support payments.
  • Debt collectors. Collection agencies check your credit report as a means of attempting to locate you to recoup a loss from a credit transaction.
  • Landlords. By reviewing an applicants credit report, a landlord can get a good grasp on whether or not the potential tenant would be able to make rent payments.

Most of the time, these credit reports are only available with your permission. However, there may be a clause in the fine print that states a company or individual can view your credit report once you sign up or use its product — always be sure to inquire if this is the case to protect yourself.

What should I check on my credit report?

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.
  • Mix of credit. The different types of credit you have contribute to your credit score, so it’s recommended to have a healthy blend of revolving and installment credit.
  • Credit utilization ratio. Lenders often look at how much of your available credit is being used compared to your credit limit. When your credit utilization ratio is over 30%, your credit score could take a few dings.

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

How do I deal with incorrect listings?

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.

Correct misinformation on your credit report

Bottom line

Your credit report will be with you for life, which means you should take the time to understand how it works and learn what to do to keep it clean of any blemishes that could deter lenders, creditors and businesses from working with you.

A healthy credit report will lead to a credit score you can be proud of.

Curious to see what’s on your credit report?

Common questions about credit reports

Was this content helpful to you? No  Yes

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked provides guides and information on a range of products and services. Because our content is not financial advice, we suggest talking with a professional before you make any decision.

By submitting your comment or question, you agree to our Privacy and Cookies Policy and Terms of Use.

Questions and responses on are not provided, paid for or otherwise endorsed by any bank or brand. These banks and brands are not responsible for ensuring that comments are answered or accurate.
Go to site