What Your Credit Report Isn’t Telling You
Reading your own credit report can often feel like combing through a deeply personal dossier of your past financial life. Depending on how long you’ve been using credit, your credit report may contain some of your most intimate personal details and closely held financial secrets, including loan payments, job and address history and past mistakes, such as missed bill payments that went to collections or tax liens on your property.
But the standard credit reports issued by the traditional credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — don’t divulge nearly as much personal information as you might think. Here are some details that you might be surprised to learn aren’t included in your report.
Your credit score: When you download a free copy of your credit reports from annualcreditreport.com, you’d think that your actual credit score would be included in the report. Unfortunately, you’ll have to pay extra to purchase a credit score from FICO or one of the big three credit reporting agencies. If you don’t want to fork over money for a one-time score, you can also access a complimentary copy from a free credit score service, such as Discover’s Credit Scorecard or Capital One’s CreditWise.
Your income and investments: Your credit report may contain details about your job history if a lender reports the name of your employer when you open a new account. However, it won’t report your income, nor will it share details about your paid-off assets, investments or savings.
Your non-credit cards: Information about other payment tools you use, such as prepaid cards, will also be left off your reports. In the past, some prepaid cards purported to report customer information to credit bureaus, but none of the cards currently available appear to do so. In general, the only financial products credit bureaus track for traditional credit reports are your credit cards, mortgages, installment loans, and other types of loans.
Your non-credit-related payments: In most cases, your non-credit related payments, such as utility bills or phone payments, won’t show up on your credit report either — unless you fall behind on a bill. If a bill goes to collections, the missed payment will almost certainly show up. All three credit bureaus also include information about on-time rental payments when available — but only if a landlord reports it to the bureau. Many landlords still don’t report that kind of information to credit reporting agencies.
Your doctor’s bills: Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), medical providers are not allowed to share personal information about your medical history, and so you won’t see any personal details about your doctor’s visits or health history on your credit report. But if you miss a payment to your healthcare provider, the medical provider may send that debt to collections. In that case, the medical collection account will show up on your report.
Your partner’s credit history: If you fall for someone with less-than-savory credit habits, you needn’t worry about their financial lapses winding up on your reports. Unless you co-sign on a loan and take joint responsibility for it, your partner’s credit skills won’t affect your report. Some people mistakenly believe that a couple’s credit reports somehow merge once they get married, but that’s a myth. You each have your own separate reports and the only bills that appear on them are the ones in your own name.
Your criminal history: If you’ve had run-ins with the law, you don’t need to worry about your credit reports disclosing that information to potential lenders either. Criminal history does not show up on traditional credit reports. However, some smaller consumer reporting agencies do collect and sell that information to employers and others who are conducting a criminal background check. But that’s a separate report.
Most civil judgments: Until recently, civil judgments — in which you’ve been sued for money and ordered to pay up — did show up on credit reports. But beginning July 1, 2017, credit bureaus will no longer report public records information, such as civil judgments or tax liens, unless the record contains your name, address and Social Security Number or date of birth. Since judgments in the public domain typically don’t contain that much detailed information, this means that most civil judgments won’t be included on reports.
According to the credit reporting trade group, the Consumer Data Industry Association, roughly half of tax liens in the public record probably won’t meet the credit bureaus’ new reporting standards either, and so they won’t show up on credit reports either.