What's in your credit report?
Your credit report contains personal information, credit account history, credit inquiries and public records. This information is reported by your lenders and creditors to the credit bureaus. Much of it is used to calculate your FICO® Scores to inform future lenders about your creditworthiness.
Although each of the credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax and TransUnion—format and report your information differently, all credit reports contain basically the same categories of information.
These four categories are: identifying information, credit accounts, credit inquiries and public records.
4 Categories of information in a credit report:
- Personally Identifiable Information (PII)
Your name, address, Social Security Number, date of birth and employment information are used to identify you. Your PII is not used to calculate your FICO Scores. Updates to this information come from information you supply to lenders when you apply for new credit.
What to look for when viewing PII:
Is your name spelled correctly? Does the report show your current address? Check your Social Security Number carefully to ensure that the digits weren't erroneously transposed. If any of this information is incorrect, be sure to dispute it with the credit bureau(s) that have this information wrong on their report.
There might also be a section for "Personal Statements" in which you would find items like a security freeze, fraud alert or power of attorney comments. Ensure any Personal Statements are correct.
- Credit Accounts
Lenders report on each account you have established with them. They report the type of account (credit card, auto loan, mortgage, etc.), the date you opened the account, your credit limit or loan amount, the account balance and your payment history, including whether or not you have made your payments on time.
This information makes up the majority of your FICO Scores calculation—so it's important to keep your accounts in good standing. Check out this breakdown of how a FICO Score is calculated.
What to look for when viewing credit accounts:
Accounts in good standing mean that your payments have been on time and that you've met the terms of your agreement with the creditor. Although the report states you're in "good standing" still check to make sure that you know about this account (validate account name and number) and that the date opened, balance, payment status and payment history all match your records.
Negative accounts display information about accounts for which payments have been missed. As with accounts in good standing, make certain that all information is correct — from the account number and recent balance to the past due amount and payment history. If anything doesn't look right, be sure to contact the credit bureau(s) and/or creditors.
- Credit Inquiries
When you apply for a loan, you authorize the lender to ask for a copy of your credit report. This is how inquiries appear on your credit report.
The inquiries section contains a list of everyone who accessed your credit report within the last two years. The report you see lists both "hard" inquiries, spurred by your requests for credit, and "soft" inquiries, such as when lenders order your report to send you a pre-approved credit offer in the mail. Lenders can only see the "hard" inquiries on your credit report. "Soft" inquiries are only visible to you.
"Soft" inquiries have no effect on your FICO Scores, while multiple "hard" inquiries can be an indication of higher risk—and may cause your score to dip. Learn more about the affect inquiries can have on your score.
What to look for in credit inquiries:
As with all the other credit report categories, you want to be certain that there's no "funny business" going on with your credit. Check to see who has inquired into your credit and if it was shared only with you or with others as well. Your credit report will show the name of the creditor who requested the inquiry, their business type and the date of the inquiry. If you see a suspicious business name or are confused as to why a specific company looked into your credit, check with the credit bureau(s) and ask them what sort of action to take if one is required.
- Public Record and Collections
Credit bureaus also collect public record information from state and county courts, including bankruptcies. Debt that is overdue and has been sent to collections also appears on your credit report.
Keep in mind, even if a debt collection appears on your credit report, it's not the end of the world. While there are no quick fixes to repairing your credit, there are proven things you can do to help improve your FICO Scores.
What to look for in public records:
A Chapter 7 bankruptcy remains on your credit report for 10 years from the filing date. A Chapter 13 bankruptcy is deleted 7 years from the filing date. Keep this in mind if either of these are listed on your report.
Remember, you should always verify that the information on your credit report is correct, so your lenders see the most accurate FICO Scores when you apply for credit. If you find an error on your report, you should report it to the appropriate credit bureau. You can also see the contact information for Experian, Equifax and TransUnion here.