The Ultimate Guide to Your Credit Report

What is a credit report and credit history?

A credit report is a file of one’s personal credit history. A credit history can include credit cards, loans (personal, car, misc...), mortgages, student loans, collections on past due accounts, payment history on all account, open and closed accounts, and bankruptcies.

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What is a credit score?

Under the new Vantage Score model used by all three bureaus, your credit score (FICO score), is a number between 501 (worst) and 990 (best) that is used to determine a consumer’s credit worthiness and potential risk to the lender. It is determined by one’s credit history. NOTICE: Not all institutions that check credit worthiness use the VantageScore. Some still rely on the traditional credit score systems of each individual Credit Bureau.

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What are the consumer credit reporting agencies?

There are three main consumer credit reporting agencies, or the companies that provide consumer credit reports. They are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

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How can I obtain my credit report?

You are entitled to one free credit report from each of the credit reporting agencies once per year. Set up by the three agencies, you can get your copies online at annualcreditreport.com, by calling 1-877-322-8228, or by writing to:

Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348

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Why is my credit report different at different reporting agencies?

Equifax, Experian and TransUnion sometimes have access to different information, so your credit reports at each will reflect that different information. Your credit score also almost certainly will be different. Even through every agency uses the same software to compute credit scores – Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) – they use a different formula.

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How often should I check my credit report?

At the very least, you should take advantage of your free credit report once per year from the three credit reporting agencies, but the more frequently you check the better. By doing so, you can be aware of changes in your report that will help you to protect yourself against false negative items and identity theft.

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How can I quit getting unwanted credit offers?

Sometimes your information can be sold to potential creditors so that they can offer you pre-approved credit offers. If you want off the list you should call 1-888-5-OPTOUT. Providing your information will notify the credit reporting agencies that you do not want to receive those pre-approved offers any more. You can also send a letter to each of them indicating that you do not want your personal information shared for any other promotional purposes. By taking this extra step, you may just cut down on the amount of junk mail you receive.

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