Your credit report is a document that contains details about your financial habits – what accounts you have, how you pay those accounts. Each month your creditors and lenders update your account information with the credit bureaus who then update your credit report. You can order your credit report from any of the major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion. Once you have your credit report in hand, here’s how to read a credit report.
Your credit report has four major sections – personal information, account history, public records, and inquiries. Some credit reports also include a credit summary section.
This section lists your identifying information. Things like your name, current and previous addresses, current and previous telephone number, and place of employment will appear here. If you’ve had your name changed, your former name will show up on your report.
It’s not unusual for name misspellings to be included on your report because one of your creditors reported it that way. Credit bureaus usually leave these misspellings to keep the link to your account information.
Some credit reports include a credit summary between your personal information and credit accounts sections. This summary includes the number of accounts you have, the total balance, total payments, the number of current and derogatory accounts. This credit summary lets you quickly see your credit standing.
The bulk of your credit report information will appear in the account history section. Here, you’ll find each of your accounts, along with the following account information:
• Name of the creditor
• Account number, partial
• Account status, whether it’s open, closed, inactive, paid, settled, etc.
• Date the account was opened
• Monthly payment
• Date the account was updated with the credit bureau
• Balance as of the date the account was updated
• Credit limit
• High balance, the highest balance you’ve ever held on the account
• Remarks, any comments made by the creditor will appear in this section
• Payment status, current, 30 days late, etc.
• Payment history, which details the status of your payments for the life of the account
The public records section lists bankruptcies, judgments, and tax liens. Criminal arrests won’t appear on your credit report, only financial related data is included. In some states, overdue child support payments are included in your public records. Collection accounts could appear in this section, in their own section, or in the credit accounts section.
Accounts that appear in the public records section of your credit report have the biggest impact on your credit score. You want to keep this section free of any account listings.
This section lists everyone who’s checked your credit report within the past two years. Your credit report includes two types of inquiries – hard and soft. Hard inquiries are from business to whom you make an application for credit. Soft inquiries appear when you pull your own credit report or when businesses pull your report for promotional purposes. When a business pulls your credit report after you’ve made an application, only hard inquiries show up. You’ll see hard and soft inquiries on your report.
Your credit reports at all three bureaus won’t necessarily be the same. Some of your creditors might only report to one credit bureau and bureaus only share information with each other in certain circumstances. So it’s a good idea to check all three credit reports from time to time.