Reading your credit report is an important step in understanding and managing your credit. A credit report is a detailed record of your credit history and includes information such as your personal information, employer history, credit inquiries, and account information. It is used by lenders and other financial institutions to determine your creditworthiness and the risk of lending you money. In this article, we will discuss what a credit report includes, how to read credit report codes, how to dispute credit report errors, and how to get a copy of your credit report from all three major credit bureaus. By understanding and monitoring your credit report, you can take steps to improve your credit score and achieve your financial goals.
What does a credit report include?
A credit report is a detailed record of your credit history and includes information about your personal information, employer history, credit inquiries, and account information. It is used by lenders and other financial institutions to determine your creditworthiness and the risk of lending you money.
Your credit report will include personal information such as your name, address, date of birth, and social security number. This is used to verify your identity and ensure that the credit report belongs to you.
Your credit report will include information about your employment history, including the names of your past and current employers, your job title, and your employment dates. This information is used to verify your income and employment stability.
The report will include a record of any credit inquiries that have been made on your credit file. This includes requests for credit from lenders, landlords, and other financial institutions. These inquiries can have a small impact on your credit score.
There are two types of inquiries: hard inquiries and soft inquiries.
Hard inquiries are made when you apply for credit or a loan. Examples of hard inquiries include when you apply for a mortgage, car loan, or credit card. Hard inquiries can have a negative impact on your credit score because they indicate that you are looking to take on new debt.
Soft inquiries are made when you check your own credit report, or when a company checks your credit report to pre-approve you for an offer. Examples of soft inquiries include when you check your credit score on a website or when a credit card company checks your credit report to send you a pre-approved offer. Soft inquiries do not have a negative impact on your credit score.
- Open accounts: Your credit report will list all of your open accounts, including credit card accounts, loans, and mortgages. These accounts will have the account number, credit limit, and the current balance.
- Closed accounts: Your credit report will also list any closed accounts that you have had in the past. This includes accounts that were closed by you, as well as those that were closed by the lender.
- The dates accounts were opened or closed: Your report will also include the dates that your accounts were opened and closed. This information can be used to determine how long you have had credit and how well you have managed your accounts over time.
- Payment history: Your credit report will list your payment history for each account, including whether payments were made on time, late, or missed. This information is used to determine your creditworthiness and can have a significant impact on your credit score.
- Credit utilization: Your credit report will include information about your credit utilization, or the amount of credit you are currently using compared to your credit limit. A high credit utilization can negatively impact your credit score.
- Current account balance: The report will also include your current account balance for each account. This information can be used to determine your overall debt level and how well you are managing your finances.
- Loan payment status: For loan accounts, the report will include the payment status, whether the loan is current, past-due, or in default.
Your credit report will also include any public records that may be associated with your credit file, such as bankruptcies, tax liens, and judgments. These records can have a significant impact on your credit score.
Example of a report
The screenshots below are from Experian’s Online Personal Credit Report sample PDF
How to dispute credit report errors
It is important to regularly review your credit report for errors and inaccuracies. If you find any errors, it is important to dispute them as soon as possible to ensure that your credit report is accurate and up-to-date.
Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax all accept online disputes. You can easily fill in your information online or dispute by mail or over the phone.
- Equifax: You can dispute errors online or mail your dispute to Equifax Information Services, LLC, P.O. Box 740256, Atlanta, GA 30374-0256. You can also dispute over the phone by calling (866) 349-5191.
- Experian: Experian has an online dispute process or you can call the toll-free number included on your credit report. You can also dispute by mail at Experian, P.O. Box 4500, Allen, TX 75013.
- TransUnion: To dispute errors with TransUnion, you can call the toll-free number (800) 916-8800, dispute online or by mail to TransUnion Consumer Solutions, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA, 19016-2000. Make sure to complete and include the request form on the website.
It is important to provide as much documentation and information as possible to support your dispute, such as copies of bills, statements, and other relevant documents. The credit bureau will investigate your dispute and make any necessary changes to your credit report.
How to read credit report codes
Your credit report will include codes that indicate the status of your accounts and your payment history. These codes can be difficult to understand, but it is important to know what they mean in order to correctly interpret your credit report. Some common codes include “I” for installment account, “R” for revolving account, “O” for open account, “C” for closed account, “X” for account that is in default or collection, and “1” for a payment that was made on time. It is important to consult the credit bureau’s key to the codes or contact them for clarification if you are unsure of the meaning of a specific code. Each bureau offers a guide explaining the codes you’ll see on that particular bureau’s report. Here’s where you can access those guides:
How to check your credit report
You should check your credit report regularly to ensure that the information is accurate and up-to-date. Federal law allows you to get one free credit report per year from each of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Here are the steps to follow to obtain your credit reports:
- Go to the website AnnualCreditReport.com. This is the official website where you can request your free credit report.
- Select which credit bureau you want to request a report from. You can request a report from one, two, or all three of the credit bureaus.
- Fill in your personal information as prompted. This will include your name, address, social security number, and date of birth.
- Verify your identity. The credit bureau may ask you to answer some personal questions or provide additional information to verify your identity.
- View or download your credit report. Once your identity has been verified, you can view or download your credit report.
Remember to review your credit report for errors, and if you find any, you can dispute them with the credit bureau.
Keep in mind, this free report does not include your credit score, some websites or credit card companies offer it for free or for a small fee.
It is also important to monitor your credit report regularly to ensure that it is accurate and up-to-date. This will help you to take steps to improve your credit score and achieve your financial goals.