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Making Sense of the Information in Your Credit Report

If you've ever applied for a credit card or loan, you've probably had your credit report reviewed by the lender. Your credit report has a huge impact on your financial future, so it's well worth your time to be sure that you understand what your credit report says about you.

Even if you're not interested in obtaining credit, your credit report can impact other areas of your life. Potential employers view your credit report to assess your trustworthiness as an employee. Landlords frequently check the credit reports of their tenants before allowing them to sign or renew their lease.

You can request copies of your report from the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. A recent amendment to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each of these national consumer reporting companies to provide you with a yearly free copy of your credit report upon your request.

Basically, your credit report is a summary of how you pay your bills; repay loans; how much credit you have available; what your monthly debts are; and other types of information that can help a prospective lender decide if you are a good credit risk.

Your credit report is made up of several sections. The first section contains personal identifying information such as your name, current and previous addresses, social security number, telephone number, birth date, and your current and previous employers.

Your bill paying history with banks, retail stores, finance companies, mortgage companies, and others who have granted you credit is one of the most important parts of your credit report.

Public records that might indicate your credit worthiness, such as tax liens, court judgments, and bankruptcies are also included in the section detailing your credit history.

Your credit report includes a comprehensive listing of all credit granters and other individuals who have received a copy of your credit report. In addition, lists of companies that have received your name and address in order to offer you credit are also included in your credit report.

Most credit bureaus allow both the consumer and the creditor to make statements if there is a dispute about something on the report. If applicable, your credit report will include these dispute statements.

Your credit report does not include bank account balances, race, religion, health, criminal records, driving records, or annual income. You've probably heard about a FICO credit score as well. Credit scores are based on formulas that use the information in your report, but they're not considered part of your credit report.

Problems with your credit report will result in you either being denied credit or receiving a higher interest rate. Red flags on your credit report include excessive applications for additional credit, a short credit history, a high debt ratio, and late payments to previous creditors.

In most cases, negative information will stay on your report for seven years. However, bankruptcy information stays on your credit report for ten years.

To help improve your credit report, always remember to close unused accounts, pay your bills on time, never use all of your available credit, and don't apply for unnecessary credit.

Copyright (c)2005 by Michael Ambrosio. You may publish this article on your site or in your newsletter provided this resource box remains in tact. Michael Ambrosio is the author of many credit related articles. Visit his website today: http://www.yourcreditandyou.com and rebuild your credit.

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