If you are applying for a loan or credit, records of your previous dealings with someone else's money are vital.
Whether you get that mortgage or credit card, or not, may depend on a network of credit reporting agencies that either share information with, or are owned by, three major credit bureaus. This report is often a critical factor in credit scoring systems that lenders use to issue credit cards as well as mortgages or other loans.
So, if you're considering making a major financial move it's a good idea to check your credit report to know where you stand. That way you can be aware of, and/or take care of, problems before they jump up and derail your plans.
If you find problems, or if potential creditors discover them, you can take steps to rebuild damaged credit and clean up that record.
If you've made mistakes in paying previous loans, bounced checks, made late payments or had other problems, you may still be able to reduce the amount of damage they will do to your credit with explanations or some basic repair.