How to Understand Credit Report
Now that you have obtained your credit report, the first thing you need to do is read through it and understand what it all means. Don’t feel bad if you don’t understand what the credit report is saying to you. Most credit reports are coded because it allows shorter time for the computer to transmit all the information between the reporting agency and its clients. All reports should have the codes print directly on the back of the report itself or on a separate attachment telling you what the codes stand for.
Credit Bureaus may not all have the same format on how the report should look, but they all have the same information included on the report. Equifax is the only credit-reporting agency that provides consumers with a credit report in a column format. This means that Equifax reports are easier to read and easier to understand. In this chapter you will be shown examples of what is on the report from Equifax, Trans Union and Experian/TRW.
EQUIFAX: They often separate out the accounts with the different collection agencies. The Company Name is the name of the business reporting the information. In many cases, just below the company name is a description of the type of account (such as student loans, credit card or line of credit), some payment history and or the account’s status (such as charge off, collection account, payment deferred, account transferred or account closed by consumer.)
o The Account Number is the number from the company reporting the information and who is responsible for the account and what type of obligation you have. Here are sample codes explaining what they are:
A = Authorized user (of someone else’s account)
B= On behalf of another person
o Date Opened is the month and year you opened the account.
o Month’s Review is the number of months for which your account payment history has been reported to the credit bureaus and when it was last looked at.
o Date of Last Activity is the date of the most recent month and year that something happened on the account. This may be the last time you made a payment or when the account was charged off or sent to collections. This date is important because negative information can stay on your report for up to seven years after the date of the last activity.
o High Credit is the credit amount of any loan you took out, your credit limit or possibly the highest amount you have ever charged on that specific account.
o Terms indicate either the number of installments you have (indicate by an M) to pay off the debt or the amount of your monthly payment.
o Balance is the amount you owed on the account when the creditor last provided the credit bureaus with the information.
o Past Dues is the amount past due on the account when the creditor last provided the credit bureaus with information.
o Status indicates both the type of account and your payment history that you have made.
o Type of Account: I stands for (Installment) meaning payment amount is fixed each month; O stands for (Open) meaning entire balance is due each month); R stands for (Revolving) meaning payment amount is variable each month.
o Payment History Codes: 0= too new to review; 1= Paid as agreed; 2= 30+ days past due; 3= 60+ days past due; 4= 90+ days past due; 5= 120+ days past due or account sent to collection; 6= Making regular payments under wage earner plan 7= Repossession 8= Charged off to bad debt.
o Date Reported is the date the creditor last provided Equifax with the information. Creditors who have requested a copy of your report are listed in the final section with the date they requested your report. Under Equifax’s policies, coded inquiries are given only to you and other creditors are not allowed to see them.
TRANS UNION: Breaks down the credit information into several subsections.
o Public Records. This section includes information obtained from local, state and federal courts and offices including lawsuits, bankruptcies and liens. Any information that is public accessible.
o Accounts with Negative Marks. Trans Union separates out the accounts that contain information which some creditors may consider to be adverse and highlights the negative information by enclosing it in brackets. The bracketed information usually includes the account’s status, any past due amount and information on any late payments that you have made.
o Accounts without Negative Marks. Immediately following the negative accounts, Trans Union lists the accounts that are reported with no adverse information. Both the accounts without negative marks and those with no adverse information contain the following information: the name of the company, account number, the type of credit extended to you, the date the creditor last provided Trans Union with the updated information, the amount you owed on the account when the creditor last provided Trans Union with your balance, the person who is responsible for the account, the month and year you opened the account, the amount of any loan you took out, or the highest amount you have ever charged on that specific account, your credit limit on a revolving or open account, or the amount of your monthly payments and number of months that it took you to pay off an installment debt, the month and year you or the creditor closed the account, and the status of your account as of the last date the account was updated. Items such as charged off as bad credit, collection account, paid as agreed, payment after charge off or collection are also on the report.
o Inquiries-Full Disclosure. Trans Union divides your inquires into two sections. The first section lists the companies that received your full credit report in response to your request for credit. These inquiries stay on your credit report for at least two years.
o Inquiries-Partial Disclosure. Some companies received only your name and address for the purpose of making you a credit offer or to review your accounts. These inquiries stay on your credit report for up to a year and are not seen by other creditors.
EXPERIAN / TRW: This credit bureau summarizes the contents into two categories,
one section for listings of creditors who receive your report for offering you credit, and the second for their own purpose of marketing.
o The report starts off with potentially negative items such as public records and accounts with creditors and others and then is followed with accounts in good standing. On each page of this report, the consumer’s name and a unique number appear on the top corner.
o Experian / TRW provides you with information affecting your credit worthiness. The items listed with dashes before and after the number, such as -3-, may have a negative affect on your credit.
o Those items are listed first; beginning with public records and followed by credit accounts. After the negative entries, the item for which there are no negative entries follows.
o For all accounts, negative or positive, Experian / TRW includes the creditor’s name and address and the account or court case number. To protect your identity and lessen your risk of identity theft, Experian/TRW does not include the full account number. They only include the first few numbers and leave the final few digits out.
o Experian/TRW notes the date the account was opened and how long the account has been reported with them, date of the last activity on the account, the type of account, your payment terms, your monthly payment amount, who is the responsible person for paying, the original amount that was borrowed, your credit limit or your highest balance, and any recent balance or payment. Finally, the comments paragraph tells the status of the account and for past due accounts, and when the information is scheduled to come off your report.
o Following the list of credit accounts, Experian/TRW provides more detailed information for certain accounts. This detail includes your monthly balances for you for the past 24 months and your credit limit, high balance or original loan amount you borrowed.
o Towards the end of the report, Experian/TRW separates out credit inquires into two sections. The creditors who reviewed your report for the purpose of offering you credit and creditors reviewing their own accounts or who reviewed your report for marketing purposes. For the first set of inquiries, each entry indicates how long the item will remain on your record.
o The end of the report contains identification information, which includes your name and all other names you have used in the past, your current and previous addresses, your social security number, date of birth, and current and previous employers. Remember that once a credit bureau gathers information about you, they can report that information and that information can and will stay on your record. The items listed below tell you how long each of these items will stay on your credit report. This will give you an idea of what you need to avoid or fix, if at all possible.
o Bankruptcies from the date of the last activity may be reported for no more than ten years. Though the date of the last activity for most bankruptcies is the date you receive your discharge or the date your case dismissed, credit bureaus usually start counting the ten-year period from the earlier date of filing. Some credit bureaus report successfully bankruptcies for only seven years. That may not always be the case.
o Lawsuits and judgments may be reported from the date of the entry of the judgment against you up to seven years, or until the governing status of limitations has expired, whichever time period is longer. Credit bureaus usually delete all lawsuits and judgments after seven years.
o Paid tax liens and criminal records from the date of the last activity can stay on for up to seven years. Accounts sent for collection, accounts charged off or any other similar action may be reported from the date of the last activity on the account up to seven years. The date of last activity is 180 days from the delinquency itself. Creditors are obligated to include the date of the delinquency when they report past due accounts to credit bureaus.
o Bankruptcies, lawsuits, paid tax liens, accounts sent out for collection, criminal records and any other adverse information may be reported indefinitely if you apply for a large amount of money over one hundred thousand dollars of credit or insurance, or if you apply for a job with an annual income amount of at least $75,000. However, credit bureaus usually delete all items after seven or ten years.
Now that you have read through this info and you know how to read your credit report and
understand it, you should be able to analyze your report and make a list of everything that you see that is inaccurate or out of date, misleading, or not authorized to be in your file.