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How to Read Your Credit Report


Acquiring a copy of your credit report is simple enough, but what's the point of getting your report if you're not sure how to read it? Credit reports aren't designed to be fancy and they're certainly not going to make it on to the fridge for display. But before you go stuffing it away in a file, you need to try and make sense of all that black and white ink which, as it turns out, isn't all that black and white. The numbers and codes can be confusing but I'm going to break down the bulk of it for you. The first order of business: Know that your credit report is generally broken down into four category sections — identifying information, credit history, public records, and inquiries.

  • Identifying information: Double check to make sure your personal details like name and address are accurate. For that matter, as you go through your entire report, make sure nothing looks like it's out of place and report any errors immediately.
  • Credit history: This will take you on a trip down credit memory lane, as it contains every account ever connected to you. Besides noting the types of credit your report will include the total amount of the credit, the highest balance on the card has ever had on it, how much you still owe on the account, and will note the status of the account as open, inactive, closed, etc. The most important part of this section tells creditors how reliable you've been at making payments on time.

There are two more sections so just read more.

  • Public records: Best-case scenario is that this section is blank, because if there's anything there it means you've had troublesome financial issues that will likely lower your credit score.
  • Inquiries: This section is divided into soft and hard inquiries — soft inquiries are from credit companies wanting to preapprove you as a customer, and hard inquiries were initiated by credit companies when you applied for a card with them.

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