What Is a Credit Report?

By Jackie Beck   Updated 09/14/2021 at 1:08 pm

A credit report is a written collection of certain kinds of facts about you and about some of your financial habits. (Those that get reported by various creditors to credit reporting agencies.) It’s not the same as your credit score.

Here’s how to get a credit report for free, and information on how many you can get each year.

Next up is more detail on what a credit report includes.

What Kind of Personal Information Appears on a Credit Report?

Your credit reports may have the following kinds of facts about you on them:

  • The last four digits of your social security number (with the other numbers
  • Your name
  • Former names, if any
  • Your age or date of birth
  • Your current address
  • Former address(es), if any
  • Telephone numbers
  • The name of your spouse or co-applicant
  • Sometimes employment history or the names of employers
  • Personal statements
  • Notes about credit freezes being active

What Kind of Credit History Appears on a Credit Report?

This normally shows both open and old closed or paid accounts (for at least the past 7 years, but sometimes longer.)

For example, these kinds of accounts are normally listed:

  • Credit cards
  • Student loans
  • Car loans
  • Personal loans
  • Personal lines of credit
  • Medical debt that has been in collections past the 180-day waiting period
  • Mortgages
  • Home equity lines of credit

What Details Are On It?

Then for each of your accounts, there will be more information.

The credit report will usually show the lender name, address, and part of the account number. Plus your payment history, credit limits, the most recently-reported balance, the date opened, the current status of the account (open, closed, paid, never late, past due, etc), and more.

For example, here is what a closed account that was sold looked like on each of the credit reports:

Equifax example:
Example of a closed account on Equifax credit report

Experian example:
Example of a closed account on Experian credit report

TranUnion example:
Example of a closed account on TransUnion credit report

As you can see, they all look slightly different but have much of the same info for the account.

Public records such as bankruptcies, judgments, and liens can be shown, depending on the credit report you’re looking at. The public records come from the courts and LexisNexis.

What Does Not Appear on a Credit Report

Things that don’t get reported to the credit bureaus by anyone don’t show up on your credit report. So that usually means things like rent and other monthly bills that you didn’t take out a loan for.

That’s why you can pay all kinds of things on time but still have a thin or no credit history if you don’t borrow money.

There are also many other things that don’t show up on your credit report.

For example, your race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, religion, education level, and whether you’re single, married, divorced, or separated doesn’t show up.

Neither does how much money you have in the bank, what you buy or own, or how much you make. Your credit report also doesn’t show criminal records or your credit score.

So your credit report is by no means a complete picture. It’s literally just about credit (aka debt or the ability to borrow.)

How Often is Your Credit Report Updated?

They can be updated at any time, because there’s no set schedule. Creditors usually report to the bureaus once a month, but not always. And they don’t all report on the same day, or at all. So how often your credit report is updated varies.

What is a Credit Report Used For?

Credit reports (and the credit scores based on them) can be used for more than just getting loans.

For example, your credit reports may be used to help decide things like:

  • whether to rent to you
  • how much you might be charged for some types of insurance
  • whether to offer utility services (including cell phone service) to you without a deposit
  • and sometimes even whether to hire you for a job

So, even when you’re completely committed to getting out of debt, check your credit reports regularly.

They could have errors. Looking at them could also help alert you to identify theft that you might not otherwise know about.

The Bottom Line

A credit report contains history of how you’ve handled credit that was extended to you, along with identifying facts about you.

It’s smart to check your credit reports on a regular basis so you can spot any errors or potential problems.

Paying off debt before buying a house

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