Q: Can you explain what a credit report is and how do I go about getting one?
A: A consumer credit report is a detailed file about you that has information on where you live, what debts you owe, how consistently you pay your bills, whether you’ve been sued or arrested, and if you have filed for bankruptcy.
Your credit report is important because it may be examined – by anyone from employers to insurance companies – any time you apply for a job, seek credit or insurance, or even try to rent a home or apartment.
Your credit report is maintained by three different nationwide consumer reporting companies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. These consumer reporting agencies are commonly called “credit bureaus.”
Credit bureaus are separate companies, independent of each other, and each tracks and records your credit history.
Credit bureaus also sell information in your credit files to banks, creditors, insurers, employers and other businesses.
By law, you are entitled to a free copy of each of your credit reports every 12 months from each credit bureau. The best place to get all three reports from one source is AnnualCreditReport.com. Alternatively, you can get your credit reports from each individual credit reporting agency:
Finally, although your credit reports are chock full of information about your payment history, your credit reports do not contain your credit scores. To get your credit scores, you have to buy those separately.
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