Credit Files & Credit Reports

The term "credit file" is often used interchangeably with "credit report", but in the credit reporting industry these terms are distinctly different. A credit file is a bit of electronic data contained within a database. At any given time, the national consumer reporting agencies maintain hundreds of millions of consumer credit files in their databases. According to some estimates these files relate to approximately 250 million credit active consumers across the United States. This means that many consumers have more than one credit file in a consumer reporting agency's system.

A "credit report" is something that does not currently exist. A credit report is created at the moment that it is asked for. Your credit report might look different today than it will a month from now, and most certainly will look different than it did three months ago. At it's most basic level, a credit report is simply a report generated from the databases owned by the consumer reporting agencies.

When your credit history is requested, the consumer reporting agencies sort though the millions of bits of electronic files stored within their databases. All of the credit files that are identified as yours and/or might be yours and meets all other specified criteria will be aggregated into a credit report and provided to the requester. It is very unlikely that you will actually ever see your real credit report. The free credit reports provided to you at by Equifax, Experian and Trans Union are not actually credit reports, but correctly referred to as consumer disclosures.