What's In Your Credit File? The credit bureaus use the information provided them by subscribers with whom you trade by credit to compile a credit profile under your name and social security number. This file is then made available to the bureaus' other subscribers should they request it.
Your credit file typically includes five types of information:
- Identifying information such as your full name
- Current and previous addresses
- Marital status
- Social security number
- Date of birth.
This includes all types of credit and is reported by the lender, or in some cases by a collection agency: the date the account was opened, credit limit or loan amount, balance, highest balance, monthly payment and payment pattern during the past several years. The report also states whether anyone else besides you (spouse or cosigner) is responsible for paying the account.
Public Record Information
This includes federal bankruptcies, state and county court records, tax liens, monetary judgments and, now, overdue child support. Bureaus have arrangements with various private entities to cull the public records for new filings and final dispositions, such as satisfactions and releases.
This is a listing of businesses that have accessed your file in the process of deciding whether to grant you credit; that is, you applied to them for a loan, or they had another permissible purpose such as other credit granting considerations, review of collection of an account, employment considerations, insurance underwriting, or your written permission.
A copy of your file printed on paper is your "Credit Report" and can be obtained by a couple of different methods...
You can purchase a copy. The current legal limit is $8.00 and adjusted annually by the FTC, but you will need to call each agency for verification and specific instructions. Some states charge less. If you're in a hurry, you can often receive your reports faster by paying with certified funds such as a money order or cashier's check. Some agencies will hold shipping a report paid by check until the check clears the bank. If needed, use the sample letter in "Sample Letters" of a future article. Recently, Equifax began offering on-line ordering via the web.
If you have been denied credit within the last 60 days because of information in your file, the law entitles you to obtain a free copy of your report from the bureau used by the credit granter. Your letter of credit denial will cite the bureau used. This request can be made over the phone. If you need to write a letter requesting a copy of your file using this method, you will find a sample in "Sample Letters
Analyzing Your Reports
The information in your credit file is a compilation of information, most of which is automatically entered and updated from banks, department stores, mortgage companies and collection agencies with whom you have dealt. Also, your job and job title may be included, as well as, apartment rental and utility payment history.
The way the bureaus present this information can be quite different. At first glance, it may appear complicated to decipher, but don't be discouraged. Either on the back or on a separate piece of paper, included with your report, will be a glossary of terms that will help you make sense of it all.
There are a couple of dozen phrases that you may find describing a particular entry on your file. Each bureau has its own way of wording things, but for the most part, they are very similar. They can be divided into three types: positive, neutral, or negative.
Positive phrases include:
- Paid Satisfactorily
- Paid As Agreed
- Current Account With No Late Payments
- Account Closed At Consumer's Request
- Paid, was 30 days late
- Current, was 30 days late
- Credit card lost or stole
- Settled (the most negative of these)
- 0 Paid
- Was 60, 90, 120 Days Late, Current, Was 60, 90, 120 Days Late
- Paid Collection Account
- Paid Charge-Off
- Profit And Loss Write-Off
- Paid Profit And Loss
- Settled For Less Than Full Balance