A credit file is a collection of data about an individual’s borrowing and repayment activity.
The information in an individual’s credit file determines their credit score, and their credit score is analyzed by financial institutions that provide automotive, mortgage, and other types of loans to determine whether the individual is a good or bad credit risk.
Credit files are created by credit reporting agencies (or bureaus), with information collected from financial institutions and companies. The data in each credit file is updated frequently and reflects each consumer’s debt management history. Credit files contain a consumer’s former and current identifying and financial information, including their name, Social Security number, address, phone number, types of debt, dates in which accounts were opened, highest balances, current account balances, payments, bankruptcies, liens, judgments, and delinquent accounts. Credit files also contain information on who has inquired about a consumer’s credit in the past two years, and when each inquiry was made. Sometimes credit files show a consumer’s current and former employers as well.
Credit reports are organized presentations of the raw information included in a credit file. A consumer may see what is in their own credit file by requesting their credit report from one of the three main credit bureaus. They may also personally be able to access their credit score by requesting a copy of their consumer disclosure.
Each of the three credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, creates its own credit file. Sometimes all three files contain identical information, but at times one file will contain an account that another file does not.
Consumers whose credit files are at risk may freeze their credit files in order to stop criminals from accessing their file. Freezing one’s credit file prevents access to the file by any new creditor or agent, without permission.
A credit file is also referred to as a consumer credit file.
[Last updated in August of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]