How to Read a Credit Report

credit score reportBelieve it or not, it’s not too difficult to read a credit report. While each of the three credit bureaus uses a different format, they’re all pretty cut and dry, whether you’re reading it online or on paper.

Each report is separated into six sections: Personal ID Information, Credit History, Collections, Courthouse Records, Additional Information, Credit Inquiries.

Personal ID Information:
Here you’ll find your name, address, Social Security number, date of birth, and employment information, including your past employers and job titles. (This information is not used to determine your FICO score.) This section also may contain your spouse’s name, the name of your employer, phone numbers, and your driver’s license number.

Credit History:
This section contains your credit/loan accounts. For each account, the following information is listed:

Credit Cards (Revolving Credit)

Account name (American Express, Visa, Mastercard, etc.)
Account number
Date opened
Current balance
Highest balance
Amount past due
Credit limit
Type of credit – Revolving
Whether it’s a joint or authorized account. A joint account makes your financially responsible for paying what the other joint holder spends. An authorized user doesn’t and can help build your credit history and make it possible for you to qualify for an individual account.
Minimum payment required
Last activity – This date is the last payment or last charge you made.
Months reviewed – how many months the account history has been reported
Account status – open, paid and closed, inactive, paid in full
Your payment history – “pays as agreed,” “30 days late,” “60 days late, “90 days late,” “charge off” (the credit has attempted to get paid but has given up)

Best Installment Loans

Date opened
Type of credit (installment — mortgage, car loan, student loan, $3,000 dollar loan, etc.)
Whether it’s a joint, co-signed, individual account
Loan amount
Required monthly payments
Amount past due
How much you owe
Months reviewed – how many months the account history has been reported
Last activity – This date is the last payment you made.
Account status – open, paid and closed, inactive, paid in full
Your payment history – “pays as agreed,” “30 days late,” “60 days late, “90 days late,” “charge off” (the credit has attempted to get paid but has given up)

Collections:
This section contains any delinquent accounts reported to collections agencies during the past 7 years. It contains the following:

Name of collection agency
Amount owed
When you pay off your debt, get it in writing from the collection agency and send it to the credit bureaus. Make sure the collection agency does the same.

Courthouse Records/Public Records:
This section contains the following records for up to 7 years, with the exception of bankruptcies:

Bankruptcies (up to 10 years old)
Foreclosures
Overdue debt from collection agencies
Tax liens
Garnishments
Lawsuits
Judgments from state and county courts
Overdue child support payments (in some states)

Additional Information:
This section may list your former employers and your past addresses.

Credit Inquiries:
This section is divided into two – voluntary and involuntary inquiries. Voluntary inquiries are those where creditors/lenders that have accessed your credit report with your permission over the last 2 years to determine your creditworthiness. Involuntary inquiries are those made by lenders that offer you credit by mail. These inquiries, and those made by your existing creditors, don’t affect your credit score. However, if you accept a pre-approved credit card offer made in the mail, or apply for credit, that acceptance will lead to an inquiry that will affect your credit score.