Reading A Credit Report

How to …

Read Your Credit Report

Overwhelmed by your various credit reports?

While the format may be different from bureau to bureau, and reports look different depending on whether you get the report online or through the mail, the basic information is the same.

HELPFUL HINT: Use 2 different colored highlighters when you review your credit report.  Highlight anything that is NOT YOURS in one color, and anything that is yours, but that is WRONG, in the second color.  That makes it easier for you to keep track of what you need to dispute and why!

Your Personal Information

The top portion of your credit report is often referred to as the “credit header” or “above-the-line information.”  This includes your personal identifying information such as your

name
address
date of birth
Social Security number
employment information

Remember:  If you find any mistakes – even minor ones – in your personal information, it could be a sign of trouble.  You may be a victim of fraud or your credit report could be mixed with that of someone else.  Make sure to dispute these errors!

Information About You From Public Records

The next section of your credit report will include any public record items associated with your personal identifying information.  This will show:

A bankruptcy.
Any judgments entered against you.
Paid or unpaid tax liens.

Negative Credit Information

Any accounts you have, whether it be credit cards, utilities, car loans, mortgages, etc., that have a negative payment history or other negative remark will be listed here in alphabetical order.

Each tradeline will include such things as …

the name of the creditor
a shortened version of the account number
the date the account was opened
the date on which it was last reported by the creditor
a high balance
a current balance
the current status of the account such as “30 days late” or “Collection.”

Negative account information can only stay on your credit report for 7 years from the date the debt became delinquent.  This is especially important with accounts that have been sold to debt collectors who often “re-age” the debt by showing it with the date the collection account was opened.

Carefully review each negative account (both original creditor’s and debt collector’s accounts) to make sure that each is shown with the correct “original delinquency” date so it comes off your credit report when it is supposed to!

Your Accounts in Good Standing

All remaining credit accounts that you have will be listed in alphabetical order in this section.

If there is any information in this section that you do not recognize – even if it’s not bad – you still want to dispute it with the credit bureau. Remember:  anything that is not yours could be a sign that you are a victim of fraud or perhaps have your information mixed with somebody else.

Who Has Been Requesting Your Credit Information?

The Inquiries section of your credit report lists the names of all entities that have requested your credit report.  Inquiries are often broken down into what is referred to as “hard pulls” and “soft pulls.”

Hard Pulls

Requests for a full copy of your credit report.
These requests are typically in response to your application for credit, insurance or employment.
Hard pulls are seen by people who access your credit report, and they get factored into your credit score.
The entities making hard pulls must have a legal right to obtain your credit report.

Soft Pulls

Requests for credit information about you that other people cannot see on the credit reports they access about you.
These do not affect your credit score.
If the soft pull is for “account review” purposes, then the entity requesting the information is obtaining account information about you and must have a permissible purpose to obtain the information.
If the soft pull is for “promotional” purposes, then usually only your above-the-line (personal) information is provided so the entity can market products to you or make an unsolicited offer of credit.

Except for promotional inquiries, there should be some relationship between you and the entity asking for your credit information.  If you do not recognize each and every entity making such a request, you should dispute those inquiries.