What is a Credit Report and What Does it Include?

A credit report is a summary of your credit history, and certain other information, reported to credit bureaus by your lenders and creditors. Potential creditors and lenders use credit reports as part of their decision-making process to decide whether to extend you credit — and at what terms. Your credit report may also be used by other companies, such as rental or insurance companies, in helping them make risk decisions. For these reasons, it's important to check your credit reports regularly to ensure the information in them is correct.

There are three major credit bureaus – Equifax, TransUnion and Experian – all of which maintain consumer credit reports. Your credit reports may not be identical with each of the three bureaus, as some lenders may report information to one or two of them -- or none at all -- instead of all three.

Your Equifax credit report contains four types of information:

  • Identifying information.This section of your Equifax credit report includes personal information, such as your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth. The identifying information contained in your Equifax credit report is not used to calculate credit scores.
  • Credit accounts, also known as “tradelines.” Your Equifax credit report lists your current and past credit accounts, also known as "tradelines," as reported by your lenders and creditors. Tradelines generally contain information on the type of account (for example, a credit card, mortgage, student loan, or auto loan), the date you opened the account, your credit limit or loan amount, the account balance, and your payment history.
  • Inquiry information. This section includes information about the companies that have pulled a copy of your Equifax credit report, sometimes known as an “inquiry.” There are two types of inquiries that you may find listed in your Equifax credit report: “soft” inquiries and “hard” inquiries. “Soft” inquiries may include your own requests for your credit history, inquiries by companies extending you preapproved offers for credit cards, or inquiries made by your current creditors who wish to perform a review of your credit (also known as “account monitoring”). “Soft” inquires are only visible to you and not to potential lenders or creditors. “Hard” inquiries occur when a potential lender reviews your credit history because you have applied for credit such as a new loan or credit card. These may remain on your Equifax credit report for 24 months. While “hard” inquiries do impact credit scores, “soft” inquiries do not.
  • Bankruptcies and collection information. Bankruptcies and past-due accounts that have been turned over to a collection agency, including accounts with doctors, hospitals and cable companies, could also be included in your Equifax credit report.