A Primer on Credit Reports and Their Interpretation


Kieran went to a Honda dealership in search of a new vehicle. She discovered an Accord that piqued her interest. She was devastated by the news that the loan application had been denied. Her credit record showed a few delinquent and defaulted items. By sheer coincidence, she had recently acquired a copy of her credit report for some other reason, but she still didn’t fully grasp the information it contained. The balances on the accounts had been cleared. She updated and rectified her credit record afterward by contacting the agency. The Honda dealership, however, insisted that 90 days pass before she could reapply. They eventually let someone else buy that Accord. If Kieran had understood what was in her credit report, she could have avoided this ordeal and received the desired automobile. If she had realized the error before applying for the loan, she could have fixed it then.

This post aims to do just that. This data will serve as a high-level introduction to the typical credit report. It will serve as a manual for the reader to follow when they peruse their credit report for the first time.

In the United States, there are just three main credit bureaus. Experian (formerly TRW), Equifax (formerly TRW), and TransUnion. There are three main bureaus in the country, and any other bureaus in your area are all connected to one of these. Anyone who checks your credit gets their information from one of the three major credit reporting agencies. Only these three credit reporting agencies in the United States are legitimate.

Strictly how do you interpret your credit report?

Given the differences between the reporting methods employed by Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, it makes sense that this is the case. It doesn’t make a huge difference either way because every credit report has the same four sections: personal data, credit history, public records, and inquiries.

Section 1: Who You Are Identifies You to Others. Information includes your name, date of birth, and Social Security number. Your name may appear more than once to reflect how it has been recorded. Your credit report will still remember an inquiry with a misspelled word from a vehicle lot ten years ago. If you are a woman, it will include your maiden name, married name, divorced name, former married name, current married name, previous married name, and any subsequent married names. Your character can be written in many different ways. Scrutinizing each one to ensure recognition is of utmost importance.

Your current and former residences and phone numbers may also be included in this portion of your identifying information. Likewise, your employer, prior employers, spouse’s name, and driver’s license number. Anything that helps you define who you are as a person.

The second part of your credit report is your credit history, often known as your accounts list or trade lines. Any credit history you have that has been reported to a credit bureau will be included here, along with any accounts you currently have open.

This part will detail everything that has occurred within the last seven years. When “the date of last activity” is over seven years old, the credit bureaus’ computers destroy the information. For instance, say you set up a Sears account in June 1995 and made regular monthly payments until you fell behind in March 2004. If the “date of last activity” is March 2004, only seven years will have elapsed. Let’s assume you’re attempting to repair your credit by paying them in October 2007. In October of 2007, the clock will start afresh for another seven years.

Creditor names and account numbers will be provided for each account. Additional information about your credit history may include:

When you first created your account,
Whether the account is held solely in your name or jointly with another
The maximum amount that can be borrowed is the credit card’s highest balance.
Your outstanding debt amount
Loan payments, or minimum credit card payments, are due every month.
Present account standing (whether active, closed, paid, etc.).
How punctually you have paid the bill
Everyone who runs a credit check will look at how reliably you have paid your bills. It’s mirrored in a binary code.

The initial component is a single letter, which may be an I or an R. Mortgages, auto loans, school loans, and similar debts all fall under the “installment loans” category, denoted by the letter “I.” Credit card debt, retail credit card debt, a line of credit, etc., are all revolving debt, represented by the letter R.

The second component is a single digit between 1 and 9. A 1 means that there have been no past-due payments and that the account is up to date. A large number late payments, missed payments, incomplete payments, etc., are represented by the 9. The best is 1, the worst is 9, and somewhere in between are the other levels. A score lower than one is generally considered unfavorable.

Once you know what the codes mean, you won’t have any trouble using them. I1 and R1 are much anticipated. However, they often raise new concerns. In recent years, Experian has begun using more straightforward language in its credit reports.

Third, the area labeled “Public Records” should be left empty. Anything unfavorable on your credit report must have resulted from legal action. Circumstances include bankruptcy, judgment, tax lien, wage garnishment, etc. The damage to your credit score caused by a listing here will be immediate and severe.

4) Inquiries: This area does precisely what its name implies; it lists everyone who requested a copy of your credit report.

Two distinct categories of questions are received. A hard inquiry is one that you request, such as when you apply for a loan, credit card, etc. Companies looking to market to a targeted audience make up most of the soft inquiries, while your existing creditors may also conduct such checks.

It has been said that asking too many questions can have a detrimental effect. It’s true, but it takes a lot before it starts to have an impact. It’s just part of everyday living to field a certain number of questions. Two or more inquiries during 14 days are aggregated into a single query if you are in the market to buy a property or car.

As previously said, various credit institutions obtain data from one of the three major credit reporting agencies. Next, they arrange information on their credit reports in multiple formats. All of them, though, will have these four components.

Knowing how to interpret your credit report is crucial. And to be aware of its contents in detail.

According to experts in the consumer credit sector, as much as 80% of credit reports may contain inaccurate or outdated information.

Should you discover an error in your credit report. You should get in touch with Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. You can fax the credit bureau directly if you have adequate proof, notably the creditor’s documentation, like a receipt. In every other case, a notification must be sent to the creditor, who has 30 days to react.

We wish you found this post helpful. Our goal was to make it easy for everyone to understand and use the data in a credit report. You can’t know for sure if it’s accurate or if you need to take any steps to have it updated unless you check. Knowing the contents of your credit report before it is examined is essential if you want to make any significant purchases or credit applications shortly. Requesting your credit report does not count as a hard inquiry.

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