Credit Reports

Get a credit history report

Credit reports track the debt accumulation of individual consumers. When you apply for a bank loan or a credit card, the financial institution runs a credit check on you. Through the credit check, they are able to access your complete credit history and check current credit scores.

Credit monitoring bureaus keep a wide range of information on file, including your bill payment histories, your current debt-to-credit ratio, signs that you are stable and responsible, and . They also note any inquiries made about your account; for example, if you apply for a loan, the lender will run a credit check. This will be noted on your account. If the lender failed to approve your loan application, that will also be noted on your account (and it can negatively affect your credit rating).

Factors that Affect Your Credit Rating

A wide range of influences can affect your credit rating, but the two most important determining factors are your payment history and your level of debt control.

If you miss a bill payment, the payee will report the missed payment to a credit monitoring bureau within 30 days. You can prevent this from happening by paying the overdue amount in less than 30 days, but the missed payment will go on your credit report if you don't. This missed payment will be visible to anyone who runs a credit check on you for a period of 24 to 36 months.

Your debt-to-credit ratio is the second major determining factor. Let's say you have a $5,000 limit on your credit card. If you carry a balance in excess of 30 percent of your credit limit, your credit score might go down. Thus, in this example, you should keep your balance at or below $1,500 whenever possible.

Other information that commonly appears on credit reports include longevity in the home you own or the job you work at, closure of credit accounts, and credit checks and inquiries. Essentially, you should think of as a tool lenders and financial institutions use to assess risk. Lower scores reflect a higher degree of risk. Risk assessment is a key determining factor in the amount of money you can borrow, the interest rates you're charged and the repayment terms and conditions.

How to Access Credit Reports

In the United States, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion are the three major credit monitoring agencies. You are entitled to one free credit report from each agency per year; you can ask for a hard copy to be mailed to you, or you can have online credit reports delivered electronically.

These and other companies also offer ongoing credit monitoring for a small fee. These services allow you unlimited access to your credit file for as long as you keep the subscription.

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