Credit Reports (sometimes called Credit Files or Disclosures) are a record of your re-payment history to creditors as well as some general information about you like your name, address and date of birth. You probably have multiple credit reports and the companies that create and maintain them are usually Credit Bureaus. Since each of these credit reports is about you, a lot of the information is the same, but they are not identical and they change over time.
“Credit” is not only a credit card but any borrowed money or thing of value that is paid for in the future. Credit can be a cellular phone, a mortgage or auto loan, a utility, cable TV, rent and more. If you have ever applied for credit, that organization is called a creditor and you probably have a credit file. If you have a credit card or a cellular phone account in your name you almost certainly have at least one credit report. The information in these reports is supplied by these creditors and various public records and even though the information is about you, no one ever asks for your permission to create a credit report.
In the United States, there are three major credit bureaus named Experian, Equifax and TransUnion maintaining credit reports about you. Each of them also produces a credit score that summarizes how risky you are in a single number - so does a company called FICO. If your credit report is like a report card your credit score is your grade point average and it typically falls in a range of about 300 to 850.
A high credit score does not mean you are wealthy. It describes how risky you are and it is used by creditors and others to determine whether to do business with you and under what conditions. To have a high credit score, you must have a long history of paying your bills and loans on time. It is also better if you do not borrow too much money relative to your income, have long standing credit relationships and do not have too much debt.
Credit reports are for creditors, not you. Since these tools help predict your chance of defaulting on a loan they are used by creditors to calculate interest rates, maximum borrowing and loan eligibility among other things. Consumers are naturally interested in the contents of their credit reports but until the Fair Credit Reporting Act and other federal laws were passed, you did not have easy access to see your credit report. Even today, you are not guaranteed the right to know your Credit Score but in recent years, the credit bureaus and others have come to realize that many consumers will pay for this information.
Almost 1 in 4 credit reports have errors. That means that you can be paying more than you should for credit. It also means that these errors can be used by or caused by people trying to steal your identity. This can have a devastating impact on a consumer if it means you get rejected for a loan or cannot get a job because of a poor credit report or credit score. One of the most important things you can do to keep track of your credit score and also be on the lookout for possible identity theft is to regularly check your credit reports for accuracy.
You can view each of the three major credit reports at least once per year for free under federal law by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com. MyProfyle makes it easy to schedule the retrieval of these free credit reports throughout the year with our Credit Report Alert Notification Email service (CRANE) that sends you reminders when it is time to review each credit report and adjusts according to your retrieval history. CRANE is a great way to control of your credit history and is available free to all MyProfyle members.