We can't expect to receive credit as a matter of course, however. We must apply for it. And just as you would be hesitant to lend money to a stranger, no bank, retailer, or finance company will grant you credit without knowing something about you. It used to be that retailers or banks would have to call each creditor you listed on an application form before they would decide to extend you credit. Today, they rely on credit reports, so it's important for you to know what's in yours.