To get a glimpse of your financial future, many businesses look at your past. Your financial history is contained in your credit report, which can determine everything from whether you qualify for a loan and the rate you'll pay on that loan to your prospects for renting an apartment or obtaining car insurance. A strong credit report is key to building and managing your finances.
What Is a Credit Report?
Your credit report is a profile of your financial history. It shows lenders, landlords and employers how you have managed money in the past and helps them decide whether or not to do business with you. Credit reports contain a consumer’s credit history, including things like debts, bankruptcies, unpaid bills and credit card usage.
Who Can See Your Credit Report?
Your credit report can and most likely will be reviewed by anyone planning to give you a loan or credit, such as lenders, banks and credit unions, credit card issuers, auto financing companies and insurance companies. Your report also may be checked by landlords and potential employers. Anyone with a legitimate business need can access your credit report, though an employer (or prospective employer) typically requires your written consent to do so.
Beware of "Fast Fixes" for Accurate Credit Problems
If you’ve had any late payments, foreclosures, or repossessions, this information stays in your credit report for up to seven years. If you’ve filed for bankruptcy, this information can stay in your report for up to 10 years.
Some companies claim they can "fix" such problems for a fee. However, it is legally impossible to alter an accurate credit history. If you find yourself in financial trouble, consider contacting a member agency of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC), the nation's largest national nonprofit credit counseling network, by calling 1-800-388-2227 or visiting www.nfcc.org.