If you don't know what's in your credit file, you may be in trouble when you want to get your next loan or credit card. A credit file, also known as a credit report, is one of the major sources of data lenders consider with your application. In addition, employers, landlords and insurance companies may pull your credit report. Learning what's on it can help you miss coming up on some unpleasant surprises down the road.
The first section of your credit report contains identifying information used to compile the data in the credit file. This information includes your name and, if applicable, your maiden name and any other names you have used to obtain credit. The file also has not only your most recent mailing address, but also others that you have used on your accounts. Your date of birth, Social Security number and employers round out the identification section. This section does not contain any information about your ethnicity, gender or income.
Accounts and Payment History
The bulk of most credit reports falls into the category of accounts and payment history. Depending on how long you've been using credit, this section could be empty or could fill several pages. Your credit report lists information about every credit account that is open or has been closed within the last 10 years. You'll see the name and address of the lender, when you opened the account, the amount you borrowed or your credit limit, the current balance you owe and your recent payment history. In addition, your credit report also lists late payments for the last seven years. Checking and savings accounts do not appear on your credit report.
Your credit file lists information from public records at the local, state and federal levels. If you filed bankruptcy in the last 10 years, or seven years in the case of a discharged Chapter 13 bankruptcy, this will appear on your credit report. A foreclosure within the last seven years is also in your credit file. Tax liens, wage garnishments and monetary court judgments may also appear in the public records section of your credit report. Lastly, collection accounts are typically grouped into the public records section.
Every time a company checks your credit report, the company's name appears in a section of your credit report that lists credit inquiries. These inquiries are divided into hard inquiries and soft inquiries. Applying for credit generates hard inquiries, which may affect your credit score. Soft inquiries are not related to credit or are ones you did not initiate, so they do not affect your credit score. All types of inquiries will drop off your report after two years.
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