Credit Reports

What's On A Credit Report?

Know what's on your
credit report?

Basically, it's a report card that describes

  • Past and present credit obligations
  • Payment history
  • "Public" records, such as bankruptcies, judgments, liens, etc.
  • Previous and current names
  • Addresses and employers
  • Telephone number
  • Birth date
  • Social Security Number
  • A list of all persons or organizations who have requested a copy of your credit report in the last six months. This list may be long and could include:
    • Requests by creditors;
    • Requests by you, the consumer;
    • Requests for promotional purposes. (These include prescreened credit offers, which you can elect not to receive by calling 888-5OPTOUT, or 888-567-8688.)
Past and Present Credit Obligations

The credit report lists what you owe, to what institutions -- banks, credit card companies, student loans, mortgage companies and more -- how long your accounts have been active, and how much debt you carry overall.
The report lists inquiries financial institutions have made to check your credit report, and lists events such as bankruptcies, judgments, tax liens and actions by collection agencies.

Example Credit Report

To get an idea of how a credit report looks, here is an example:

Example Credit Report Source:

Error in Your Credit Report?

Your credit report will include instructions for filing a dispute. For something like a misspelled name, it is okay to get in touch with the credit bureau by phone or online. For other errors, it's best to send a certified letter, return receipt requested. On a free report, the bureau has 45 days to investigate your claim. Meanwhile, get in touch with the credit card company that made the error. It’s a good idea to notify them in writing as well.

The Credit Bureaus

There are three main credit bureaus:

Experian (formerly TRW):, Consumer Assistance Center, P.O. Box 749029, Dallas, TX 75374, or order a credit report from Experian at 1 888 397 3742

Equifax Credit Information Services., Wildwood Plaza, Suite 500, Marietta, GA 30067 or dial 1 800 685 1111

TransUnion., 760 Sproul Road, Springfield, PA 19064 or call 1 800 888 4213

Getting a Copy of Your Credit Report

The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires the national credit bureaus to give you free access to your credit report once every twelve months. You can receive the free credit report online at, by phoning 1-877-322-8228, or by mailing a request form to Annual Credit Report Request Service, PO Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. You can print the form from Since applying for your credit report online can be confusing, most experts recommend mailing in the request form. Although that delays the receipt of your credit report, it simplifies the process.

NOTE: is the only Website that offers a truly free report.

One more way to get a free report: If you have been denied credit within the past 60 days based on information in your credit report, you can obtain a free copy of the credit report from the bureau that provided the information to the lender who denied your application.

The free credit report does not include your credit score, which we explain in the next section.

Suppose I want to See My Credit Report More Than Once a Year?

Experian, TransUnion and Equifax will provide a credit report for a fee if you want to see your reports more than once a year. Check their sites to find out what each credit bureau offers and what they charge.


Do I Need Credit Monitoring?        

Many sites besides claim to offer a free report, but the reports are tied to trial membership in a credit monitoring service.

What do credit monitoring services do? Credit monitoring services alert you to changes in your credit report and let you know who’s looking at it. By keeping you abreast of activity affecting your credit report, the services say they can help you avoid identity theft. To an extent, that’s true.

Okay then, what’s the catch? Many credit monitoring services only track changes at one of the three national credit bureaus. If someone is trying to open bogus accounts in your name at the other two, you won’t find out about it.

And the services can be expensive. If you don’t cancel after the trial period, the service can start racking up charges on your credit card

Can I monitor my credit myself?  If you check your credit report for errors and check the charges on your monthly credit card statements, you probably do not need a credit monitoring service. It’s a good idea, if you’re monitoring your credit yourself, to check your credit reports more frequently than once a year.

How should I shop for credit monitoring if I decide to take that option? If you’re thinking of subscribing to a credit monitoring service, be very sure what they are offering and how much they charge. It’s a good idea to check the monitoring company out with the Better Business Bureau or your state attorney general’s office.

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