How To Read Your Credit Report

Check Your Credit History for Accuracy

Man reading credit report
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Your credit report contains a wealth of information about your financial history and actions.  If you have credit or loan accounts, those accounts and how you pay them, are included in your credit report. It’s important to review your credit report at least once a year so you know what your creditors are saying about you.

Understanding your credit report can be confusing, especially if you’re reading it for the first time.

Here is a breakdown of the types information contained in your report.

Personal Information on Your Credit Report

The personal information included in your report is used to identify you. It contains basic information like your name, address, and place of employment. Previous addresses and employment might also be included.

It’s not uncommon to have variations or misspellings of your name. Most credit reporting agencies leave these variations to maintain the link between your identity and the credit information. Having different variations of your name and old addresses won't hurt your credit score as long as it's actually your information.

Check this section to make sure personal information is identifying you and not someone else. 

Your Credit Summary

The credit summary section of your credit report summarizes information about the different types of accounts you have. This section lists the total number of accounts you have along with the balance.

It also lists the number of current and delinquent accounts.

It will include the following account types:

  • Other Accounts - Any miscellaneous accounts that don't fall into the other categories.
  • Collection Accounts - Any accounts that have been sent to collections.

Your credit summary will also summarize the number of accounts you have open, closed, in public records, and the number of inquiries made against your credit within the past two years.

Your Account History

The account history section of your credit report contains the bulk of the information. This section includes each of your credit accounts and details about how you've paid.

Your account history will be very detailed, but it's important that you read through it to make sure the information is being reported correctly.

Each account will contain the several pieces of information:

  • Creditor name of the institution reporting the information.
  • Account number associated with the account. The account number may be scrambled or shortened for privacy purposes.
  • Account type, i.e. revolving account, education loan, auto loan.
  • Responsibility. This indicates whether you have individual, joint, or authorized user responsibility for the account.
  • Monthly payment is the minimum amount you are required to pay on the account each month.
  • Date opened. The month and year the account was established.
  • Date reported is the last date the creditor updated the account information with the credit bureau.
  • Balance. The amount owed on the account at the time data was reported.
  • Credit limit or loan amount.
  • High balance or high credit is the highest amount ever charged on the credit card. For installment loans, high credit is the original loan amount.
  • Past due. Amount past due at the time the data was reported.
  • Remarks are comments made by the creditor about your account.
  • Payment status. Indicates the status of the account, i.e. current, past due, charge-off. Even if your account is current, it might contain information about previous delinquencies.
  • Payment history. Indicates your monthly payment status since the time your account was established.

Collection accounts may appear as part of the account history or in a separate section.

Where it appears depends on the company providing your credit report.

Public Records

Public records include information like bankruptcies, judgments, tax liens, state and county court records, and, in some states, overdue child support. Depending on the type of account, a public record can remain on your credit report between 7-10 years.

Only severe financial blunders appear in this section, not criminal arrests or convictions. Because public records can severely damage your credit, it's best to keep this section clear.

Credit Inquiries

Credit inquiries list all parties who have accessed your credit report within the past two years. While your version of the credit report lists several credit inquiries, not all of these appear on the lenders' and creditors' versions. 

  • Only "hard" inquiries are shown to lenders. These are inquiries made when a lender checks your credit report to approve your credit application.
  • Your version will also include "soft" inquiries consisting of inquiries made by lenders for promotional purposes.