When you apply for credit, lenders want to know about you, your employment history, your income, your assets, and most importantly they want to know about your credit history. A lender will get lots of information directly from you through a credit application, then, they will pull your credit bureau reports to confirm this information and review your credit references and credit report scores. Then upon evaluation of your credit application combined with your credit report, the lender will determine your credit risk and make a final decision on whether or not to grant you credit and at what rate of interest they will charge you.

So, now that you know the process of getting credit, let us take a deeper look into the factors that can either be an asset or liability to you when applying for credit – your credit report.

What is a credit report

Your credit report is your financial resume, a summary of your financial reliability, containing both personal and credit information. Your credit report is maintained by credit reporting agencies, also known as credit bureaus, and provided to lenders, employers, insurance companies, landlords and other companies who have a legitimate need for this information, based on the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). Your credit and personal information is reported to the credit reporting agencies from various creditors, in most cases electronically, instantly updating your file.

What is in my credit report

Your credit report is divided up into five main areas: personal profile/identifying information, inquiries, credit history, public record information and your credit score.

PERSONAL PROFILE / IDENTIFYING INFORMATION – this is where all your personal information is recorded – your name including any alias and possibly your spouses name, current and previous addresses, Social Security number, date of birth and current and previous employment. You might find some of this information is incorrect or incorrectly spelled, this can occur when creditors pull your credit bureau as they usually enter in the information though the computer where data entry errors can occur, and these mistakes will update your credit bureau report. However, if there is information that is not even close, such as an address, this should alert you to investigate this further as it is a possibility that you may be a victim of identity theft.

INQUIRIES – in this section you will find listed all the parties that have requested a copy of your credit report and the date it was done over the past two years. There are two types of inquires, soft and hard. A hard inquire is when you have applied for something and is initiated by you, for example, you have applied for a loan or mortgage or completed a credit application for a credit card or even applied for insurance. These hard inquiries are the ones that appear on your credit report and are visible to creditors when they access your credit report. A soft inquiry only shows on your credit report when requested by yourself and do not show to the creditors. A soft inquiry can come from your existing creditors that are monitoring your account, companies that are looking to offer you promotional applications for credit and each time you request a copy of your credit report.

CREDIT HISTORY – in this section you will find an itemized list of your credit cards, loans and mortgages, both currently active accounts and past closed ones. The information reported includes, type of account, when it was open, the high balance or limit, monthly payments, date of last payment, how the account is paid including any late payments, date of last activity and a rating of how the account was paid.

PUBLIC RECORDS – this information is obtained from local, state and federal courthouses and includes bankruptcy records, foreclosures, tax liens, monetary judgments, court-ordered payments, and over due child support payments. Public records are a negative credit reference and will lower your credit score. They also stay on your credit report anywhere from six to ten years.

CREDIT SCORE – your credit report scores are a rating determining you credit risk and the likelihood of defaulting on a loan. Lenders will use this score as a tool to assist them in deciding whether or not they will lend you money. Your credit score is a snap shot of your credit at that point in time, and can change on a daily basis. The score is a three digit number ranging between 300 and 850. Statistics show that the higher the number the less likely you will default on a loan, therefore you are a good credit risk; and the lower the number the greater chance there is for you to default on your payments, making you a greater credit risk.

When your credit score is low, you still may be able to borrow money but, you will most likely have to pay a higher rate of interest and you may not get all the money you request and possibly have to pay additional fees, basically you are at the mercy of the lender. However, the higher your credit score is the more you are in-charge, you can get any loan at the best possible rates with no restriction.

Your credit score is a complicated calculation, where the credit reporting agency takes into consideration many factors, including but not limited to, your payment history – late payments, both current and previous will bring down your score; your credit balance in relation to you limit – if you are at your maximum credit limit or if you are over it will bring down you score; the number of inquires – if you have to many in a short period of time it will bring down your score; the length of time you have had credit, the total number of outstanding debts and any derogatory information or public records, such as bankruptcies, collection, judgments and written off accounts – will bring down your score.

Where does the information on my credit report come from?

Your credit history information is gathered at companies called credit bureaus or credit reporting agencies. There are three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and Trans Union. They receive information voluntarily from creditors and the credit reporting agency updates and maintains your credit report file with this information. Creditors report, loans, credit cards, mortgages, on a regular basis electronically. Your file is also updated when you apply for credit, as the information from your credit application is submitted to the credit reporting agencies when they pull your credit report.