How to Read Your Credit Report

Credit reports impact many aspects of our lives.  Whether we want to apply for a mortgage, obtain a car loan or credit card, rent an apartment or apply for a job, we must prove to a prospective creditor or employer, that we are financially responsible.  Our credit report shows the history of our accounts and illustrates whether we may be a good credit risk.  

Reading Credit reports may be overwhelming

Transunion, Experian and Equifax are the three main credit bureaus. Although the bureaus report similar information, the actual reports may look different.  But, there is common information that appears on each.  As you review your report, look for sections that contain the following information.

  • Personal Information
    Your name and all variations of your name
    Your current and former addresses
    Social Security Number
    Date of Birth
    Phone Numbers
    Current and former employers
    Spouse or Co-Applicant on an account

  • Date of Report
    Every new credit report will list a current date. It is important to reference the report date when disputing an item on the report.
  • Credit Report number
    Every credit report will list a report number.  It is important to reference this number when disputing a listing.
  • Satisfactory or Accounts in Good Standing
    These accounts reflect a history of on time, as agreed payments.  Once an account is closed or paid off, it may continue to appear on the credit report for up to ten years.
  • Adverse or Negative Accounts
    The most common items in this section are late payments, accounts that have been charged off or sent to collection, bankruptcies, liens, and judgments.
  • Payment History Legend
    The legend is a code that is used to identify each account and its status, for example whether the payments are being made on time as agreed, 30-60-90-120-150 -180 days past due, if there is a repossession, charge off, collection, etc.
  • Request for Credit History from others
    The credit bureaus will make your credit history available to current and prospective creditors and employers, but only with your approval. Typically, these companies have requested your credit information as a result of an action you took, such as applying for credit or financing, a job application, or as a result of a collection.
    Unrecognizable Inquiries
    Sometimes unfamiliar inquiries may appear on a credit report.
    These requests may come from sources with a permissible purpose, such as: 
    – a current creditor offering new credit or a new product
    – a current creditor monitoring your account
    – an employer wishing to extend an employment offer
    – a potential investor assessing risk
    – an end user to complete your mortgage application
    – insurance underwriting (auto or home)

Obtain your Free Credit Report

Consumers are entitled to obtain one free credit report from each bureau every twelve months.  Make sure that the information is accurate. If you haven’t checked your report recently, learn how to request one for free.  

Credit reporting errors are common.  If you notice that  information is not listed correctly, send a written dispute to the credit bureau by Certified Mail Return Receipt.  If the bureau does not correct the error, your consumer rights may have been violated.

Seek Legal Help 

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that represents people who have been denied credit for a home, auto or a loan, or possibly a job opportunity or promotion, due to a negative listing on a credit report.  Contact us for a free evaluation to determine whether your consumer rights have been violated under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.