Credit Reports

What is a credit history?
Sometimes, people talk about your credit. What they mean is your credit history, which is used to create your credit rating. Your credit history describes how you use money:

  • How many credit cards (revolving loans) do you have?
  • How many other loans do you have?
  • Do you pay all of your bills on time? If they’re late, how late?

If you have a credit card or a loan from a bank, you have a credit history. Companies collect information about your loans and credit cards.

Companies also collect information about how you pay your bills. They put this information in one place: your credit report.

What is a credit report?
Your credit report is a summary of your credit history. It lists:

  • your name, address, and Social Security number
  • your credit cards
  • your loans
  • how much money you owe
  • whether you pay your bills on time or late

Why do I have a credit report?
Businesses want to know about you before they lend you money. Would you want to lend money to someone who pays bills on time, or to someone who always pays late or doesn’t pay at all?

Businesses look at your credit report to learn about you. They decide if they want to lend you money, or give you a credit card. Sometimes, employers look at your credit report when you apply for a job. Cell phone companies and insurance companies look at your credit report, too.

Often the interest rate charged on loans by a lender will vary depending on your credit score, which is based directly on your credit report. If you have a lower credit score, you can expect to pay a higher interest rate on many loans, and this means that the loans will cost you more money than they would have if you had been charged a lower interest rate.

Who makes my credit report?
A company called a credit reporting company collects your information. There are three big credit reporting companies:

  • TransUnion
  • Equifax
  • Experian

These companies write and keep a report about you.

Can I see my credit report?
You can get a free copy of your credit report every year. That means one copy from each of the three companies that writes your reports.

The law says you can get your free credit reports if you:

  • call Annual Credit Report at 1-877-322-8228 or
  • go to

Someone might say you can get a free report at another website. They probably are not telling the truth.

On to the next section!