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Navigating Credit Reports & Understanding Credit Scores

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This eBook is intended to help you understand credit reports, credit scores and how they impact your financial health. The information is applicable to nearly every consumer. If you have a credit card, student loan, mortgage or any other form of credit, you have a credit report.

Your credit report informs potential lenders about your financial habits. If your report reflects excellent money management skills, they may be more inclined to offer you a loan with a lower interest rate. If your report lists negative information, getting approved for credit may be a challenge. Use this eBook to help you understand your credit history and financial health and to improve or maintain your credit scores. The accuracy of your credit history is in your own hands.

—Credit eBook Preview—

Chapter 1: Credit Bureaus


Credit bureaus are agencies that collect information and organize it into reports about an individual’s borrowing and credit habits. They gather personal data like your name, address, phone number and employer.

More importantly, credit bureaus compile information detailing your history with credit. Outstanding debts, accounts in your name, payment history and public records are additional information credit bureaus collect. Public records could be liens, bankruptcies or foreclosures, to name a few.

Credit bureau agencies create individual files using the information they have gathered. Lenders reference these reports when evaluating your request for credit. Landlords and employers might also review credit reports.
The three largest and most prominent credit bureaus are Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

How can credit bureaus collect information about me?

The information credit bureaus collect is very personal, and some people may question why it’s legal to seek out, store and sell all that data in the first place.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) details specific limitations on how credit bureaus can operate and to whom they can provide your information. The law states that only entities with a “valid need” may access your credit report; this includes creditors, lenders and landlords. You must give written permission for employers to access your credit report.

Credit bureaus usually obtain information from the financial institutions with which you work. For example, your credit card issuer may update the bureaus when you take out a new card or miss a payment. Some public court records are also a source for this information.

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