How to Read a Credit Report

When you obtain an updated copy of your credit report, you can see what information creditors have reported about you. It is important to know how to read a credit report so that you can check for any inaccuracies that may be negatively impacting your credit score.


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    Obtain copy of your credit report from Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. In the United States, you can get a free copy from each bureau every 12 months by visiting the Annual Credit Report website. You have to pay for any additional copies of your credit report.
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    Verify that the contact information recorded on your report is correct. Look at the I.D. section at the top of the report to find your Social Security Number, current address, date of birth and, if applicable, your spouse's name.
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    Read through each credit history section in its entirety. Any credit account, past and present, you have had in the past 7 years should be listed in the credit history section. If creditors reported late payments, check your records to ensure they are correct.
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    Review each report's "Credit History" section. Check the information listed there against your records to ensure it is correct. Pay close attention to fields that report the company name, account number, the date the account was opened, the name on the account, months reviewed, high credit, last activity, status, terms, balance, past due amounts, and date reported.
    • "Months reviewed" refers to how long the account history has been reported.
    • "High credit" can refer to your credit limit or the highest amount you have charged to the account.
    • The "status" field reports the timeliness of your payments. Terms are only listed if you have monthly payments that have yet to be made.
    • "Date reported" is the last time the creditor updated the account with the bureau.
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    Look below the credit history section for a "Collection Accounts" section. You should only see this section if any of your credit accounts have been referred to a collection agency within the last 7 years.
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    Check any listed collection accounts against your records. Check the name of the collection agency and the amount of money that you owe to ensure they are correct.
    • If you owe any money, pay the balance off as soon as possible to improve your credit score.
    • If you find a collections account that does not belong to you, submit a dispute letter to the credit bureau that reported the information.
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    Verify the information shown in the "Courthouse Records" or "Public Records" section to ensure it is correct. This information includes tax liens, bankruptcy records, collection accounts, judgments, and in some states, overdue child support.
    • Submit a dispute letter to the credit bureau that lists the information in the courthouse records section if any of it is incorrect.
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    Make sure past employers their addresses are correctly reported by your creditors. You can find this information below the "Courthouse Records" section.
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    Look at the inquiry section on your credit report to see what businesses have received copies of your credit report within the past 2 years. If a particular business does not look familiar to you, check with the credit bureau to obtain contact information for that business. Companies can only obtain copies of your credit report with your written authorization.


  • Bankruptcy records will appear on your credit report for 10 years from when they were filed. All public records will be appear for 7 years after the date filed.

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Categories: Credit and Debt