What is a Credit Report and What Does it Include?

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Highlights:

  • A credit report is a summary of how you have handled your credit accounts
  • Credit reports are used by potential lenders and creditors to help them decide whether to offer you credit -- and at what terms
  • It's important to check your credit reports regularly to ensure the information is accurate and complete

A credit report is a summary of how you have handled credit accounts, including the types of accounts and your payment history, as well as certain other information that’s 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. Others, such as potential employers or landlords, may also access your credit reports to help them decide whether to offer you a job or a lease. Your credit reports may also be reviewed for insurance purposes or if you’re applying for services such as phone, utilities or a mobile phone contract. 

For these reasons, it's important to check your credit reports regularly to ensure the information in them is accurate and complete.

The three credit bureaus that provide credit reports nationwide are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Your credit reports from each may not be identical, as some lenders and creditors may not report to all three. Some may report to only two, one or none at all. 

Your Equifax credit report contains the following types of information:

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  • 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 account information

 This information is reported to Equifax by your lenders and creditors and includes the types of accounts (for example, a credit card, mortgage, student loan, or vehicle loan), the date those accounts were opened, your credit limit or loan amount, account balances, and your payment history. It  may not contain all your credit accounts for several reasons, such as closed accounts that have dropped off your report after a certain period of time, or accounts not reported to Equifax by lenders.

  • Inquiry information 

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There are two types of inquiries: “soft” and “hard.”

“Soft” inquiries may result from your checking your own credit reports, companies extending you pre-approved offers of credit or insurance, or your current lenders and creditors conducting periodic reviews of your accounts (known as “account reviews.”) Soft inquiries do not impact credit scores. Regularly checking your credit reports can help you monitor your credit accounts and enable you to recognize inaccurate or incomplete information, or suspicious activity that may signal potential identity theft. 

“Hard” inquiries occur when companies or individuals, such as a credit card company or loan servicer, review your Equifax credit report because you have applied for a job, credit or service – for example, a new loan, an apartment or rental home, a credit card, utility service, or a mobile phone contract. Hard inquiries remain on your Equifax credit report for two years and may negatively impact credit scores, although the impact may lessen with time.

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  • Bankruptcies

 Your Equifax credit report contains information about bankruptcy public records and related details such as the filing date and chapter (type of bankruptcy).

  • Collections accounts

This includes past-due accounts that have been turned over to a collection agency. These can include your credit accounts as well as accounts with doctors, hospitals, banks, retail stores, cable companies or mobile phone providers. 

You may also want to check your Equifax credit report if you’re planning a big purchase, such as a car or a home. Doing so can help you understand what lenders and creditors may see when you apply for credit.