MADISON (WKOW) -- There are two important things about your credit that you should know about - what's in your credit report and your credit score.
Your report is your credit history - a list of where you've borrowed money and your record of paying it back.
Your credit score is a number based on your credit history that ranks your credit risk.
Tonight's It's Your Money report deals with the fact that your credit report and score are now being used to determine a lot more than just your credit worthiness.
Credit reports tell the story of your credit history. Where you've had a line of credit or a loan and how well you lived up to your responsibility to repay on time. From your mortgage to your car loan to every last charge card, it's all there.
"A lot of folks don't realize what's on the credit report and there are things that they think are that aren't," UW financial expert Debra Neubauer says.
Neubauer points out that what a credit report says about you is being heard by everyone from potential employers to landlords to insurance companies.
"The reason for that is they're looking for some tangible piece of information on you that will help make the determination whether or not you're responsible. And if you're not responsible with your money, you're a bigger risk," she says.
And, that risk is something more and more employers, even the military, are also wanting to know before they hire someone.
"Are you going to concentrate on your job the way you should or are you going to be worried about having to dodge debt collectors or whatever so that you're distracted and not as productive?" Neubauer asks.
Late payments and collections generally stay on your credit report for seven years and can effect your score for that time.
And experts will tell you that the only way to repair bad credit is to build a good credit history over time; which means paying your bills on time all the time.
You'll also want to take advantage of the law that says you're entitled to a free copy of your credit report once a year from each of the three main credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and Trans Union. Spread them out by getting one every four months, then make sure you check for and report any mistakes to the agency that issued the report.