Credit Reports

Credit Reports

What You Need To Know

Your credit report contains information on where you work and live, how you pay your bills, and whether you've been sued, arrested, or filed for bankruptcy. Consumer Reporting Agencies (CRAs) gather this information and sell it to creditors, employers, insurers, and other businesses. The information may be used when you apply for credit, housing, insurance, or a job. The Fair Credit Reporting Act controls how your credit history is kept, used and shared. It is designed to promote accuracy and ensure the privacy of the information in credit reports. Here are more things you need to know:

  • Only people with a legitimate business need can get a copy of your report.

  • An employer or a prospective employer can only get your report with your written consent.

  • Creditors, employers, or insurers need your approval to get any medical information.

  • Negative information concerning your use of credit can be kept in your report for seven years. A bankruptcy can be kept for ten years.

  • Information about a lawsuit or an unpaid judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer.

  • Anyone who takes adverse action against you such as denying your application for credit, insurance, or employment in response to a credit report must give you the name, address, and telephone number of the agency that provided the report.

  • Know what is in your credit report, including medical information and the sources of the information.

  • Get a free report if a company takes adverse action against you based on the report and you request your report within 60 days of receiving the notice of the action.

  • Under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act you qualify for a free credit report once a year from each of the 3 major reporting agencies. Go to

  • Unless you have a special reason to pull all 3 reports at the same time, it's a good idea to pull each at different times throughout the year.

  • In case you need the contact information for the 3 major credit bureaus, it is:

P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374
Experian (formerly TRW)
P.O. Box 2002
Allen, TX 75013

P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022

Know Your Rights

The Equal Credit Opportunity Act protects you when dealing with anyone who regularly offers credit, including banks, finance companies, stores, credit card companies and credit unions. When you apply for credit, a creditor may not:

  • Ask about or consider your sex, race, national origin or religion;

  • Ask about your marital status or your spouse, unless you are applying for a joint account or relying on your spouse's income, or unless you live in a community property state (Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas and Washington);

  • Ask about your plans to have or raise children;

  • Refuse to consider public assistance income or regularly received alimony or child support; or

  • Discount or refuse to consider income because of your sex or marital status or because it is from part-time work or retirement benefits.

  • You also have the right to have credit in your birth name, your first name and your spouse's last name, or your first name and a combined last name;

  • Have a cosigner other than your spouse if one is necessary;

  • Keep your own accounts after you change your name or marital status or retire, unless the creditor has evidence you are unable or unwilling to pay;

  • Know why a credit application is rejected; the creditor must give you the specific reasons or tell you of your right to find out the reasons if you ask within 60 days;

  • Have accounts shared with your spouse reported in both your names; and

  • Know how much it will cost to borrow money. The Truth in Lending Act requires lenders to give you information on the cost and terms of credit so you can compare different offers. The total finance charge is a dollar amount that includes all interest and fees that must be paid to get a loan. The annual percentage rate (APR) is the rate of interest paid over the term of the loan.

  • For specific credit issues relating to military personnel, go to page on the Soldiers' and Sailors' Civil Relief Act under the Military menu tab.

  Building Better Credit
U.S. Gov't Consumer Information Credit Issues Publication

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