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.