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Credit Reports Explained in (Exactly) 250 Words

Credit Score, Personal Finance
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Credit Reports in 250 Words

Think credit reports are too complicated to understand? Give it one minute.

What credit reports are: Records of how you’ve handled your financial obligations. Three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — gather this data. They list your accounts and your payments, as well as any problems like late payments, collections, lawsuits or bankruptcies.

Who has a credit report: You do, if your name is on a credit account that was reported to a credit bureau. A “credit account” means something you are legally required to pay, like a loan or credit card.

Who doesn’t have one: Adults who don’t have traditional credit accounts likely don’t have credit reports. Minors won’t have a credit report unless they’re authorized users on an adult’s card.

Where the data come from: Lenders, credit card issuers, public records and sometimes landlords.

Who can see my credit report? You, people you owe money to, and those you authorize, including:

  • Landlords
  • Employers
  • Insurers
  • Lenders or credit card issuers

How do I get my reports? You can get a free report every 12 months from each of the three credit bureaus. Access them at AnnualCreditReport.com. You may be entitled to additional free copies if you are denied credit.

Do my reports include my credit scores? No. Scores are calculated from report data but aren’t on the reports. You can use a personal finance website, such as NerdWallet, to get a free score and monitor your credit report information. Some credit card issuers also offer free scores.

Bev O’Shea is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: boshea@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @BeverlyOShea.