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What do I need to know about credit reports?

Credit & debt, Credit cards

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Your credit report is a record of your financial history and is used to calculate your credit score. Whether you realize it or not, credit bureaus start creating a report on you as soon as you have bills and credit cards under your name.

A large portion of your report is based on your loan and credit card payments. But any bills you pay, including things like rent and utilities, are also fair game. Same goes for public records—like the parking ticket you forgot to pay that got sent to collections.

Knowing what’s on your credit report can help you figure out how to improve your credit score—and that’s key to better rates and offers.

Keep an eye out for errors

Checking your credit report is simple and free. Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion are required to give you your credit report when you ask for it, once every 12 months. You can get your free copies at AnnualCreditReport.com. When you look at your report, make sure all the information is up-to-date and correct.

And look carefully. Credit reports aren’t always perfect. About 20% of Americans have an error on their report. If there’s an error on your report that you don’t know about, it can be a real shock when you don’t get approved for something. But if you know an error is there, you can get it resolved by contacting the credit bureaus.

What’s included in my credit report?

Because there’s a lot more to look through than you might expect, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau put together this list to help you sort through it all.

Your personal information:

  • Full name (and any other names you’ve used in the past)
  • Current and former addresses
  • Birth date
  • Social Security number
  • Phone numbers

Your credit accounts:

  • Current and past credit accounts
  • Types of accounts (such as installment loans, auto loans, student loans, mortgage, revolving credit, etc.)
  • Credit limit or amount
  • Account balance
  • Payment history
  • When an account was opened or closed
  • The names of the creditors

Accounts in collection:

  • Outstanding debts that were sent to collections

Any public records:

  • Liens
  • Foreclosures
  • Bankruptcies

Credit inquiries:

  • Companies that accessed your credit report (prospective lenders, employers, and your own request for an annual report)

When you know what to expect and what to look out for on your credit report, you can better understand how to improve your credit. Always check to make sure everything is accurate, up to date, and error free.


The information in this site, including any third-party content and opinions, is for educational purposes only and should not be relied on as legal, tax, or financial advice or to indicate the availability or suitability of any Oportun product or service to your unique circumstances. Contact your independent financial advisor for advice on your personal situation.

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