Credit reports hold a great deal of personal information about you and your ﬁnancial history. Creditors, lenders, and many other businesses use information in your credit report to decide whether to offer credit-based products and services to you. Due to the sensitive nature of the data included in your report, it is imperative that check your credit report regularly to ensure the most accurate information is included.
Checking your credit report for the first time can be confusing and overwhelming. Here’s an overview of the types of information you’ll see in your credit report.
Personal Identifying Information
One of the most important parts of the credit report will be the section with your personal information. Personal information appears as it has been collected by businesses that you’ve had credit with in the past, e.g. your lenders and credit card issuers. You can expect to see:
- Your name and variations of your name. For example, you may see any combination of your first name, last name, middle name, middle initial, maiden name, and name suffixes
- Current and previous addresses that you’ve used on credit applications or you’ve had billing addresses sent.
- Current employer.
- The last four digits of your social security number.
- Date of birth.
- Phone number.
If any of this information is inaccurate, it could be a sign of identity theft. Pay close attention to the rest of the information in your credit report.
Each time a company checks your credit report, the record of that credit check is added to a section for credit inquiries. These inquiries come from companies you’ve applied for credit with, for example if you’ve been shopping for auto loans or mortgages. There are also inquiries from companies who check your credit to prescreen you for products and services they offer.
Credit Account History
The credit account history section is perhaps one of the most important sections on your credit report. This information demonstrates how you’ve handled credit in the past and is used to predict the likelihood that you’ll pay in the future.
All of your currently open credit and accounts are listed on your credit report. Some closed accounts may still appear on your credit report depending on the age of the account. This is where you’ll ﬁnd information about your student loans, credit cards, auto loans, mortgages, collections, and other credit accounts.
Closed accounts may still appear on your credit report depending on the age of the account and the status of the account when it was closed. Accounts closed in good standing may still appear on your credit report for 10 years after being closed, depending on the credit bureau’s policy for reporting these accounts. On the other hands, accounts closed due because of a default or delinquency will remain on your credit report for seven years.
Some of your financial obligations won’t show on your credit report even though you make monthly payments on the account. This includes non-credit bills like your cell phone and utility payments.
Account information is provided to the credit bureaus by the companies you do business with. Details about your history include:
- Name of the creditor
- Type of account
- Date the account was opened or closed
- Credit limit or original loan amount
- Highest balance held on the account, for credit cards
- Monthly payment amount
- Current balance
- Account status
- Account payment history
It can be helpful to see the detailed ﬁnancial history listed out to ensure that all of your payments have been received and there are no open accounts that don’t belong to you.
Public records are debts that have been filed in state and county court. Speciﬁcally, you can expect to see bankruptcies, repossessions, foreclosures, evictions, civil judgments, and tax liens.
Civil judgments appear on your report when you have been taken to court for a lawsuit. Once you’ve paid back the money you owe, the report will be updated to show that you have paid.
Lastly, tax liens appear on your report when you haven’t paid taxes in a while. If you pay it off, it will leave your report in 7 years. If the lien is not paid, then it can stay on your report for up to 10 years.
Checking Your Credit Report for Errors
It is important that your credit report is accurate. Errors could be the result of a mistake in reporting or could indicate instances of identity theft. If there are mistakes in your credit report, for example unfamiliar addresses or unusual pieces of information, dispute these errors with the credit bureaus right away.