Understand your credit

If you have ever applied for a charge card, student loan, or other kinds of credit, you probably have a credit report (or credit profile). Credit reporting agencies collect and organize information about you and your repayment history, and make it available to those who are considering granting you credit. Landlords, employers, government licensing agencies, and insurance underwriters can also obtain your credit report.

Lenders will look at things like: How promptly do you pay your bills? How many credit cards do you own? What is the total amount of credit extended? How much do you actually owe on all of your accounts? If they find a history of late payments, bankruptcies or other collection activities, too many accounts, too much indebtedness, maxed out lines of credit, or multiple inquiries in the past 12 months, this could negatively impact your ability to get credit.

What is on your credit report?

Personal identifying information - name, social security number, date of birth, current and previous address and employers

Credit account information - date opened, credit limit or loan amount, balance, monthly payment, payment history

Public record information - bankruptcy, tax and other liens, judgements, and (in some states) overdue child support

Inquiries - names of companies that got your credit report

Your credit report does not contain information on checking or savings accounts; medical history; race, gender, religion or national origin; credit scores; friends; political preferences; or criminal record.

Negative information stays on your credit report for 7 years--10 in the case of some bankruptcies. Positive information stays on indefinitely. Inquiries stay on for 6 months to 2 years, depending on the type of inquiry.


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