Credit Reporting Agencies

April 20, 2009

Having access to credit can help us get the things we need and want. In addition to borrowing money for purchasing a home we can use it to buy everything from vacations to groceries. And increasingly, our ability to rent an apartment or get a new job hinges on our credit.

Information about or credit is maintained by credit reporting agencies, also known as credit bureaus. There are three agencies that keep track of everyone’s credit: Experian TransUnion and Equifax. Lenders use the information provided by these bureaus to determine whether or not they are willing to lend to you.

What Kind of Information Do Credit Reporting Agencies Keep?

Credit bureaus maintain a file on each individual who has obtained credit. This file includes your name, address and phone number, as well as your Social Security Number. It also includes a list of accounts, as well as the amount borrowed and payment history associated with those accounts.

The agencies get this information directly from lenders. Most lenders report to all three agencies, letting them know if you have made your payments on time. If you haven’t, they report how late your payments were and whether any collection action was taken.

Credit reporting agencies also have access to public records. That means that they can find out if you have had any judgments against you, or if you have filed bankruptcy. This information, if applicable, is added to your credit report.

To get some more information about your credit report and how to improve your credit visit My Credit Card Watch

Who Has Access to Credit Reports?

Credit reporting agencies are required by law to only release credit reports to companies that have a legitimate need for a person’s credit history. These include lenders, employers, landlords, insurers, and in certain cases, government agencies. The average person cannot legally access someone else’s credit report.

You can, however, access your own credit report. By law, you can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies each year. In addition to this, you may also request a copy from the agency used by a creditor who denies you credit within 90 days of being turned down. You may request a copy of your report in writing or online, but you must provide identifying information to prove that you are who you say you are.

If you find information on your credit report with which you disagree, you can dispute it. The agency will investigate your claim, and if it finds that the information is erroneous, it will remove it from your report. If it maintains that the information is true, you can place a note with that information that must be passed on to anyone who views your credit report.

Credit reporting agencies simply pass on information obtained from creditors. They do not determine whether or not we can obtain new credit. They do, however, give lenders the information they need to make that decision for themselves.

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