Credit 101: How to Read Your Credit Report
Now that you’re familiar with the basics on how credit reports and credit scores work, it’s time to read your credit report. As you do, have a pen and paper handy to take notes.
The top portion of your credit report contains your personal information. Check that all names, addresses and phone numbers listed are correct.
Unfamiliar names and addresses could indicate potential fraud. If there are items that stand out, carefully check the remaining sections of your report to ensure there are no fraudulent accounts under your name.
Family members’ addresses frequently show up on each others reports. This typically happens if you have either opened a joint credit or bank account, or have had mail forwarded to their address (or they to yours).
Make sure to also check that your social security number and date of birth match what is on the report.
The personal statements section lists any fraud alerts or other notations you have placed on your report.
Public records include bankruptcies, judgments, tax liens, foreclosures and collections. If you see any of these items listed, take careful note of the creditor’s name, account number, date and balance.
If any of the information appears incorrect, check your documentation for verification. You may be able to pull court or tax records online, otherwise you can go in person to the county records department and request hard copies.
As you review your credit history, make note of any accounts listed as having late payments. They should be at the top of the report. We will review this topic in a later post.
Review the status on all accounts. Make a record of the balance and credit limit for any accounts listed as “active”, “current” or “open”. Calculate your credit utilization ratio by dividing your current balance into the credit limit. Next, add up all payments and divide into your monthly gross income to determine your debt to income ratio. Last, tally how many different account types you have and how many total accounts. If you have three to five open accounts paid on time within the past year, you will ensure you have enough credit history to obtain a score.
If you notice any accounts that you don’t recognize, make sure to check our next post on addressing errors.
The last section to review is the inquiries section. Hard inquiries are those that a lender has pulled to obtain new credit. Oftentimes, a lender will pull a report from a bank or reporting institution. If you see an inquiry that you don’t recognize, first try to match the date of the inquiry to any reported accounts.
Soft inquiries are those you make yourself, or a company makes in order to offer you a credit card or other type of account. These do not affect your credit score.
Over the next few weeks we’ll look at the different factors in depth.
Dealing with credit mishaps
Protecting your credit
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