reported to my credit reportsSo, you might understand what your credit reports are and how they can affect a great many aspects of your financial life, but do you know exactly what gets reported to them in the first place? Although it’s obviously a good idea to pay all of your bills on time and be careful with your financial obligations, understanding what exactly gets reported to the three credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — can help you get a more clear picture of how your credit scores are calculated. Clear up any mystery that might be hanging over your head by reading up on what information does and doesn’t get reported to your credit reports.

What gets reported to your credit reports — and what doesn’t?

Personal information

What goes on your reports: Identifying information such as your name (including aliases or nicknames you often use), social security number, date of birth, current and previous home addresses, marital status and the number of dependents you have will appear on your reports. Some people’s reports may also have employment information that was included on an application for a credit card or loan.

What doesn’t: Data that isn’t relevant to identifying you for financial purposes will never show up on your credit reports — this includes your gender, race, religion, medical history, criminal record, public assistance status and political affiliations will not be reported. Although the number of dependents you have will show up, identifying information about them won’t. The same goes with any current or previous spouses, with the exception of their name being listed on any joint accounts.

Public records

What goes on your reports: Public records information such as bankruptcies, foreclosures, lawsuits, liens and judgments will all be reported to the credit bureaus and show up on your credit reports.

What doesn’t: Debts that don’t arise from a contract or agreement by the consumer to pay, which includes tickets and fines issued by the government. As stated above, criminal records are not included on your credit reports.

Utilities

What goes on your reports: For the most part, utilities companies don’t report your timely payments to the credit bureaus, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important to keep making them, since accounts that go into default or get turned over to collections will be reported to the credit bureaus.

What doesn’t: Monthly payments that you make on your cable, electric, water, Internet, mobile phone and other bills are usually not reported to the credit bureaus, but as noted above, failure to pay a bill can have a detrimental effect if your account goes into collections.

Loans, credit cards and other credit accounts

What goes on your reports: Also referred to as trade lines, any loan, credit card or other credit account you’ve had will show up on your credit reports, and your reports will be updated to reflect the balance of the account, amount due, amount paid and the status of the account (current, past due, paid, etc.). This includes accounts that are in collections, as well as debts that have been settled.

What doesn’t: Your interest rates for any loans or credit cards you’ve had will not be visible on your credit reports, so you don’t have to worry about potential creditors getting hold of that information. Additionally, information doesn’t remain on your credit reports forever — bankruptcies older than 10 years and any charged-off credit accounts or collections accounts older than seven years won’t show up any longer.

Medical debts

What goes on your reports: In the past, any medical debt that went into collections was reported to your credit reports, but as of now, only those debts which have been in collections for more than six months will be added to your credit reports.

What doesn’t: As of March 2015, thanks to the National Consumer Assistance Plan, the three credit bureaus agreed to a 180-day waiting period before medical debts are reported. This provides a grace period that will hopefully prevent debts sent to collections as a result of the insurance payout taking longer to process from negatively impacting credit reports in the future.

Credit inquiries

What goes on your reports: Requests for access to your credit reports by financial institutions, such as lenders or credit card issuers, are known as “hard” inquiries and will show on your credit reports. These inquiries can remain on your credit reports for up to two years, and they usually require your authorization (so you should be aware when they’re happening). Hard inquiries typically occur when you’re applying for a credit card, a mortgage or any type of loan, but occasionally other types of activities can prompt a hard inquiry.

What doesn’t: Not every request for your credit will show up on your credit reports. “Soft” inquiries, which include checking your own credit score, credit checks performed during a background check by employers or rental companies and those pre-approved lending or credit card offers you receive in the mail are considered soft inquiries and thus won’t show up on your credit reports.

Deciphering your credit reports can be a tricky process, but understanding exactly what is and isn’t on them is an important step in the process. You can learn more about your credit reports by reading our guide to the basics. Find something on one of your credit reports that just doesn’t seem right? We lay out how to dispute an error on your credit reports in this post. For more information about staying on top of your finances in general, follow our personal finance blog.