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Credit Report

A credit report is a summary of your credit history. Your banking, money management, and other personal finance data are regularly reported to the three credit bureaus, regardless of your immigration status. The three bureaus, individually, keep a separate record of your activities. So it is common for your credit reports to differ from each other, which is why you should be checking all three reports on a regular basis to ensure their accuracy.

The best way to examine your credit reports is a U.S. government mandated website,, which offers one free report per year from each bureau. If you are planning to purchase a home, or in the process of applying for a larger loan, you may want to consider credit monitoring, such as myFICO's Monitor Your FICO® Score & Equifax Credit Report. Another popular product is Equifax Score Watch.

Since a dip in your credit score could potentially cost you thousands of dollars in the long run, it is important to keep an eye closely on your credit reports when you are ready to apply for a mortgage, for example.

Note to new immigrants: there are numerous scam websites that claim to offer free credit reports or scores - be very cautious dealing with them. If in doubt, check with the FTC to see if there are any red flags, or just stick with reputable businesses.

What data are in my credit report?

The information below is usually included in your credit report:

  • Personal information:
    • Name
    • Current and previous addresses
    • Current and previous employers
    • Telephone number
    • Date of birth
    • Social security number
  • Credit history:
    • Payment history with mortgage companies, credit card companies, banks, retail stores, etc.
    • Account information including date opened, date closed, closed by you or a creditor, type of account, loan amount.
  • Public records:
    • Any relevant public information such as bankruptcies, tax liens and court judgments. Report inquiries.
  • Report inquiries:
    • Companies whom you have contacted to apply for credit.
    • Companies who obtained your name and address in order to offer your credit (this part is not included in the business version of your credit report).
    • Companies or individuals who have permission from you to see your credit report Dispute statements.
  • Statement from you or a creditor disputing information on the report.

Information typically NOT in your report:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Health information
  • Criminal records
  • Driving records
  • Salary

Who may check my credit reports?

If you apply for any type of credit, usually you must consent to allow the following businesses or people to check your credit report:

  • Credit card companies
  • Mortgage lenders, banks, loan providers, etc.
  • Insurance companies
  • Sometimes potential employers and landlords

Some businesses may inquire about your credit reports in order to offer you promotions, such as 0% Introductory APR credit cards. These inquiries do not need your permission and will not hurt your credit score. Your own inquiry into your credit reports, such as using a credit monitoring service or getting the three free reports per year, do not affect your FICO score either.

How long does a bad record stay on my credit report?

It depends, and may vary from two to seven years. So make every effort to pay your bills on time. If you have been a good customer, many companies are willing to forgive your for the first time you are late, but you have to ask customer service specifically not to report the late payment to credit bureaus. It is a good idea to take advantage of many banks' free online payment services to avoid the hassle of tracking your bills manually.

The impact of bad records decreases with time. The most recent two years are usually the most important. If you have a late payment or other negative records on your report, keep doing the right things and over time your credit score will return to normal levels.