Your credit report tells potential lenders how responsible you’ve been with credit in the past. Lenders can legally request this document to assess how risky it is to lend to you.

What can lenders see?

Your credit history lists the details of your past and current credit accounts. It also documents each time you or a lender requests your credit report, as well as instances where your accounts have been passed on to a collection agency. Financial issues that are part of the public record, such as bankruptcies and foreclosures, are included, too.

Your credit score is a number that represents your creditworthiness. Scores can also be referred to as credit ratings, and sometimes as FICO® Scores, created by Fair Isaac Corporation, and typically range from 300 to 850.

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What does a credit score mean?

A credit score is a numeric representation of your credit history. It is comprised of five components that have associated weights: 1

  • Payment history: 35%
  • Amounts owed: 30%
  • Length of credit history: 15%
  • How many types of credit in use: 10%
  • Account inquiries: 10%

Lenders use your credit score to evaluate your credit risk – generally, the higher your credit score, the lower your risk may be to the lender.

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How to access your report

You can request a free copy of your credit report from each of three major credit reporting agencies – Equifax®, Experian®, and TransUnion® – once each year at AnnualCreditReport.com or call toll-free 1-877-322-8228. You’re also entitled to see your credit report within 60 days of being denied credit, or if you are on welfare, unemployed, or your report is inaccurate.

It’s smart to request a credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies and to review them carefully, as each one may contain inconsistent information or inaccuracies. If you spot an error, request a dispute form from the agency within 30 days of receiving your report.

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Responsibility is key

Above all, it’s important to use credit responsibly. A good credit history and credit score can be the difference between being able to purchase a home, buy a car, or pay for college. Proactively managing your credit report is a great way to stay in control of your finances, and ultimately achieve your goals