United States Senate Federal Credit Union

FAQs - Credit Report

What is a credit report?

Credit reports are windows into your personal and financial life and health. Lenders and creditors look at your credit history to assess your creditworthiness. It’s to your advantage to know what your credit report says before you apply for credit so you can correct any inaccurate data. It can take up to six months for credit reporting agencies to make a change in your credit report, so give yourself at least that long before you start shopping for a mortgage, car or any other large purchase.

What is a credit bureau?

Credit bureaus, or credit reporting agencies, are basically clearinghouses for information about consumers' credit. When you apply for credit, they provide this information to qualified requestors. There are three main credit bureaus: Equifax®, Experian®, TransUnion®.

How do the three credit bureaus obtain information?

The three credit bureaus collect information from banks, savings and loans, credit unions, finance companies, and retailers and others about your credit which they store in a computer database.

Do all three credit reporting bureaus have the same information on file?

No, because lenders send information to some and not others. Credit reporting bureaus receive more than two billion pieces of data each month, so it's a given that mistakes are going to happen. Credit reports are available from all three credit reporting agencies: Equifax®, Experian®, and TransUnion®, and they do not share information with each other. Therefore each of the three credit reporting agencies may have different information on file for you.

Who can look at my credit report?       

According to the Permissible Purposes section of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) a business or other person may gain access to your credit file that has a permissible purpose to receive that credit file. The permissible purposes include:

  • A court order, or Federal grand jury subpoena.
  • In accordance with written instructions from a consumer to whom the file relates.
  • As part of a credit transaction involving the consumer.
  • To review and collect the consumer's account.
  • For employment purposes (only with the consumer's written consent).
  • Underwriting of insurance for personal, family or household purposes.
  • Government Agencies for determination of consumer's eligibility for a license or other governmental benefit.
  • In connection with a valuation of, or an assessment of the credit or prepayment risks as associated with an existing credit obligation.
  • In connection with a legitimate business need relating to a business transaction initiated by the consumer.
How long does information stay in my credit report?

Records and collection items stay on your credit report for seven years with the exception of bankruptcies, which stay on for ten years. Unpaid tax liens remain for 15 years. Positive information remains indefinitely, although credit reporting agencies can remove it after seven years. Inquiries remain for two years.

At what age do credit-reporting agencies start recording a person's credit history?

At 18 years of age, your credit is compiled and reported to the credit reporting agencies.

Why should I check my credit report?

Just as you have medical and dental check-ups periodically, you should check your credit report. Knowing what's in your credit report arms you with the information you need — your credit standing — when trying to secure favorable rates for a mortgage or other loan. Also, if you regularly check your credit report, you can protect yourself against credit fraud and identity theft, the fastest-growing federal crimes in the nation.

How often should I check my credit report?

With the explosive growth of identity theft, experts recommend checking your credit report on a regular basis. We recommend that you monitor it daily. That way, when there's a change you don't recognize, you can take steps to halt what could be illegal pilfering of your personal information.

How do I dispute inaccurate information?

Immediately contact the credit bureau that reported the inaccurate information (be sure to keep records of all correspondence, phone calls or emails). The credit reporting bureau will then check with the original source. If this inaccuracy persists, add a statement to the credit report specifying why the item is wrong. This dispute process can take up to 30 days.

How long does it take for a closed account to be removed from my credit file?

The file will be updated in 30 to 60 days, but reportable information can remain for 7 to 15 years from the date of the last activity.