What is a credit report?

Credit history under a person's name is tracked and summarized, for the past 7-10 years. Includes loans, medical bills, and late utility bills.

Companies like banks, auto lenders, and debt collectors track these activities. They report them to consumer reporting agencies (CRA).

The CRAs generate reports. The 3 CRAs most widely known and used are the credit bureaus Transunion, Experian, and Equifax.

A credit report has:

Personal identifying information like name, social security number, address and birth date

Accounts of many types and activities like payments, defaults, and balances

Public records including foreclosures, bankruptcies, tax liens, and lawsuit settlements

Inquiries, which happen when a person or business requests a credit report from a CRA

What is credit history?

Credit history includes accounts (also called trade lines) like auto loans and credit cards, along with activities related to these accounts. Activities can be payments made late or on time, balances owed in the past and currently, and credit limits. Collections, public records, and inquiries are also part of credit history. 

Most businesses report a person's history to the big 3 bureaus, but some report to only 2 or 1, or even 0. This can be a reason why some information might show up on a credit report from Transunion, but not in one from Experian; or why some information can be missing in reports from all 3 bureaus.

Other items to look for:



If an account with money owed has been unpaid for months, a company often sells the debt to a collection agency. Unpaid bills that can end up as collections include medical, utilities, and credit cards.

Public Records


A public record is debt owed that has gone through a court system, such as bankruptcies and foreclosures. If it's left unpaid for too long, the government can take money out of paychecks as payment.



A soft inquiry is for informational purposes, like a person requesting their own report. A hard inquiry is for a decision about lending or services, like when a mortgage lender pulls a report. Only a hard inquiry affects credit scores.

Ready to see your credit report?


Check at least once a year to make sure all the information is correct, and if anyone has tried to steal your identity. You can get one free annual copy from each of the 3 bureaus. Stop by one of our centers if you'd like help reading it.