Glossary of Credit Reporting Terms

Regardless of life stage, every consumer at some point will apply for credit and need a good, clean consumer credit report showing creditworthiness.  Understanding key credit reporting terms is the first step in creating a clean credit history.

Authorized user

An authorized user of a credit account can use the credit, but is not responsible to pay it back.


A legal proceeding declaring that a consumer is overextended and unable to pay obligations. Some loans may be excused and assets may be distributed among the creditors

Credit bureau 

A credit bureau, also called a credit agency, consolidates information from creditors to create a report of individual consumer’s credit history.

Credit Dispute 

A credit dispute is when a consumer disagrees with something on his or her credit report, and contacts the credit reporting agency to request that it be investigated.

Credit report

A credit report is a consolidated file showing individual consumer’s credit history.

Credit score 

A consumer’s credit score is a single number that indicates the strength of one’s credit history. 

Identity theft

Identity theft occurs when a consumer’s personal information, such as social security numbers and account numbers are stolen, and used without their knowledge.

Joint account 

A joint account is an account where two or more individuals share access and responsibility for the account.


A judgment is a decision by a court that determines a consumer’s financial obligations.
  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.

  • Since 2007, the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) has served as a trusted, neutral source of information for more than eight million homeowners. They are partnered with, and endorsed by, numerous major government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of the Treasury.

  • The mission of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD works to strengthen the housing market in order to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; and build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.

  • The Council on Accreditation (COA) is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. Their mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards.

  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.