Home > Credit Reports > What’s in My Credit Report?

Comments 0 Comments

Credit reports are among the many documents in our lives that are a dreadful combination of boring and important. They can also be very long, which adds to the fun of reviewing one.

But they’re not all that bad once you know what you’re looking at, and it’s pretty self-explanatory: It’s a report on your credit use.

Cozy Up With Your Credit

At least once a year, you should request your credit report and check it for accuracy. You’re entitled to a free annual copy of your report from each of the major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — so you can request them all at once or space them out over the course of the year. It’s up to you. (See? Fun!)

You can also get a free report if you’re denied credit, so you can figure out why you may not have seemed creditworthy.

Know What You’re Looking At

The good news is when it comes to long, boring, important documents, credit reports are pretty easy to read. They use a simple coding system to show whether your accounts are in good standing, and there’s no fancy language to decipher. (So when you’re choosing between reading your life insurance policy or your credit report, go for the credit report. Unless you’re trying to fall asleep. Then you probably want the insurance policy.)

So what’s on this report? Your credit accounts will probably make up the majority of your report. That includes credit cards, mortgages and a variety of other loans: auto, student, personal, payday and so on. It will show if the account is active or closed; whether you’re the primary accountholder, co-signer, joint account holder or authorized user; your payment history; the balance of the account; the date it was opened — basically any information about the account you can think of.

Then there’s a section on inquiries: When someone requests to see your credit report, it results in an inquiry. A request to be used in a lending decision, like a mortgage or credit card application, registers as a hard inquiry and will impact your credit score. Account reviews, also called soft pulls or soft inquiries, don’t hurt your credit score, and those result from requests like credit card companies looking to see if they want to extend you an offer in the mail or when current lenders review your credit.

There’s also a part for information of public record. You’ll find things like bankruptcies, collections accounts, tax liens and judgments here.

As you go through each portion of your credit report, make sure you’re checking for accuracy. There are statutes of limitation on how long certain trade lines can stay on your report, and you don’t want an error to hurt your credit.

Accuracy is especially important with the section outlining your personal information. You don’t want to get your file mixed up with someone else and have that messing with your credit standing. If you find errors or signs of fraud on your credit report, it’s important to dispute them.

Finally, a super-helpful summation of your credit report is your credit score. Monitoring your credit scores can help you track your credit standing, and a drop in your credit scores can alert you to pull your credit report to look for errors, fraud or negative items.

There are many ways to get your credit scores for free, including through a tool from Credit.com, which also gives you an analysis of your credit standing, along with a plan to help you get your credit in better shape.

More on Credit Reports and Credit Scores:

Image: Rayes

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team