Tell me more about credit scores and credit reports.

A credit report is a report that brings together information about an individual’s credit history, such as your total outstanding debt and if you repaid your debt on time. A credit report contains information on where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you’ve been sued, arrested, or filed for bankruptcy.

The three primary credit-reporting agencies that collect your credit history are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. These credit-reporting companies sell the information in your report to creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses that use it to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, or renting a home.

You can request a copy of your credit report from all the major credit reporting agencies.

A recent amendment to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each of these companies to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months.

The three nationwide consumer reporting companies have set up one central website, toll-free telephone number, and mailing address through which you can order your free annual report.

To order, go to, call 877-322-8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form on their website and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

A credit score (ranging from 300 to 850) is the equivalent to a grade on your credit history report.

Your credit score is used by lenders and credit card companies to determine the likelihood that you will repay your debt on time. The higher your credit score, the lower the assumed risk to lend you money and extend you credit. The general view is that a score of 660+ is considered “prime” or “A” credit. If your credit score is below desirable levels, your ability to get a loan or the interest rate you receive on a loan or credit card will be negatively affected. Late payments will lower your score, but establishing or re-establishing a good track record of making payments on time will raise your score.