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, www.annualcreditreport.com, 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.
The information below is usually included in your credit report:
If you apply for any type of credit, usually you must consent to allow the following businesses or people to check your credit report:
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.
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.