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Credit Reports -  what you need to know.

Your credit report is a very powerful report that essential controls what you can and cannot do in your life. Unfortunately many people arenít aware of what a credit report actually is and what information is contained on the report. This article breaks down what is contained on your credit report and tells you everything you always wanted to know about your credit report but were afraid to ask.

Your credit report is nothing more then a very detailed snapshot of your financial history that is furnished to anyone supplying you credit from the credit bureau. There are three main credit bureaus that handle a majority of these credit report request. They are Experian, Equifax and Trans Union. Each of these organizations are private in nature and routinely furnish your credit information when asked to do so for a fee.

Generally speaking the credit reports provided by the credit bureaus are very detailed and very accurate. For instance itís not uncommon for them to have information regarding missed payments as far back as 6 or 7 years. They collect this information in order to provide it to creditors prior to their providing any form of credit to a consumer seeking credit. The creditors can use the information they receive to determine if that same consumer can be considered a good credit risk. A good rating allows for more favorable credit terms while a poor rating essentially ends any chance for a consumer to obtain credit in the first place.

The amount of time that a blemish (such as a missed credit card payment) stays on your credit report can vary but normally these negative items are deleted after 7 years thanks to the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act. Bankruptcies are another matter entirely and they normally remain in place for up to 10 years. Keep in mind that credit inquiries stay on your credit report for 2 years so closely monitor the number of times you apply for credit since a high number of inquiries can be viewed in a negative manner.

Until recently in order for a consumer to view their credit report they had to order a copy from one of the three main credit bureaus and pay a small fee. However new laws now allow for 1 free credit report every year to any consumer that wishes to see their credit report.

The power of your credit report is incredible. Even if you have built up a positive credit report any missed payment no matter how small the amount can result in a denial of credit. The best advice most credit can give is to stay current on your entire monthly financial or reoccurring obligations and donít overextend yourself financially.

Check Yours RegularlyÖand for Free

In the twenty-first century, there are few documents that have a greater impact on the lives of Americans then their credit report. Credit rating determines oneís ability to buy a home, a car, or to obtain a credit card or a job. Since these things are important, it is equally important that the information be accurate. The only way to be sure of that is to check the report regularly. Prior to last fall, there were two ways to obtain a copy of your credit report: to pay for one, or to obtain one for free after being denied credit. Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act passed last year, Americans can now obtain a free copy of their credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies once a year.

Due to anticipated heavy response to the offer of free credit reports, the program has been rolled out in stages. People living in the West and Midwest are already eligible to apply for a copy of their report. As of June 1, 2005, those living in the Southeast are now eligible, and on September 1, 2005, those living in the Northeast will be eligible. All that is required to receive a copy of your credit report is to answer a few simple questions. Since it only takes a few minutes to do, there is really no reason to put off checking your credit report, and you may benefit tremendously by doing so.

The credit score is a single, three digit number that represents an individualís credit worthiness, and that score is obtained through a complex formula that takes into consideration a personís borrowing and spending habits and payment history. A high score makes someone more eligible for loans and credit, while a lower score may indicate that a person is a risk to repay. While the information contained on a credit report is generally accurate, incorrect information sometimes shows up on credit reports, and incorrect information could result in someone who being denied a loan for which they might otherwise be qualified. Furthermore, a credit report check is the best way to determine if you have been the victim of identity theft, an increasingly popular crime that often goes unnoticed for a year or more. If your identity is stolen, your credit rating can be ruined and you can be burdened with thousands of dollars in debt. The new bankruptcy law, which goes into effect in October 2005, draws no distinctions between debt incurred by an individual and debt incurred through identity theft. This alone should be reason enough to check your credit report regularly.

Since the law now allows individuals to obtain one free report per agency per year, anyone who wants to keep a close eye on their credit report can obtain a free report as often as every four months. Since the credit report affects your life in so many important ways, checking it regularly should become a habit.