How to read a credit report

Written By: Glenn Michaels, Op-Ed Writer

A credit report is filled with information about your credit obligations and payments that you may owe that report to the credit reporting agencies. Your credit report contains records of your credit accounts including mortgages, credit cards, student loans, installment loans and any other account that report. It also contains public records, collection accounts, your employment history and your current and previous addresses.

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Many companies and businesses check your credit report. Places that check your credit includes banks, mortgage lenders, credit card issuers, employers, landlords, and utility companies.

The first section of a credit report contains your personal information, including your name, social security number, date of birth, current address and previous addresses. It also contains information on your current and previous employers. Another important of the personal information section of your credit report is the public records section. This section lists any public record information about you from local, state and federal courts, including foreclosures,
liens, law suits, judgments, bankruptcy filings, child support, and collections.

The main section and body of your credit report details most of your credit accounts and payment history. It includes information about mortgages, auto loans, credit cards, store cards, student loans and installment loans. Each account includes the name of the company (creditor), the date the account was opened, the credit limit or loan amount, account balance, monthly payment, the most recent payment and the last payment status. The payment status will include the unpaid balance, payment amount and due date. If the account is past due it will have the number of days past due and the current account status (open or closed). This section detailing your credit accounts is very important to look at closely to make sure the information is correct.

The main body of your credit report may contain a lot of accounts in this section. This section will contain credit accounts that you opened a long time ago and paid in full. It also may contain old active accounts with positive payment histories. These accounts actually help boost your credit score so leave these older accounts alone as they help your credit score.

The personal data section provides a section for consumer statements and alerts. Once you have reviewed your credit report and if you see inaccurate information or if you have been a victim of identity theft you might want to add a comment to this section detailing the date you learned about theft and the accounts affected. This section where you can comment on any accurate but negative information listed on your credit report. You can also make comment on a credit account because of a payment dispute with a creditor any give your side of the dispute here.

The last section of your credit report lists inquiries made to your credit history in the past two years. If a company has looked at your credit the inquiry will be listed here. Your credit report may contain inquiries from creditors that you have accounts with such as banks and credit card companies. They will not affect your credit score. Potential employers and landlords may check your credit report as well.

You will also want to take a closer look at the current and previous addresses and employers as well as the list of places you lived. If something is not correct it could be that another consumer’s credit report has been mixed with yours, or even worse the incorrect information could be an indication that an identity thief has been applying for credit in your name.

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There are companies that access consumer credit files on a regular basis such as banks and credit card companies to monitor customer’s credit files. The inquiries that impact your credit score are the ones you initiate when you apply for a mortgage loan, auto loan, credit cards or other forms of credit. When you fill out an application for credit you give the creditor permission to pull your credit report. Inquiries affect about five to ten percent of your overall credit score.

The three credit bureaus obtain credit data in its credit reports independently of each other. Some creditors do not report to all three credit bureaus. This is the main reason why credit reports and files from the three credit bureaus are different. It is important that you understand everything in your credit report.

The negative credit information on your credit report will stay on your credit file for seven years or longer. It is important that all public information is accurate. Bankruptcies and tax liens can stay on your credit report for as long as ten years.

If you dispute any items in your credit report or discover errors in your credit report it is your right to write to the credit bureau(s) regarding the error or disputed item. The credit bureau has thirty days to investigate and to resolve your error or disputed item. If the credit bureau agrees with you or is unable to resolve the error or disputed item the credit issue must be deleted from your credit profile.

About The Author

Glenn Michaels - As an op-ed writer, Glenn Michaels is a mortgage underwriting instructor for CampusUnderwriter ( As a BBA & FHA DE Underwriter, Glenn is a Pace University graduate who also graduated from New York University’s School of Mortgage Finance. Glenn has conducted numerous training classes and has worked in the mortgage banking industry for 38 years. 

Opinion-Editorial (Op-Ed) Disclaimer For NAMP® Library Articles: The views and opinions expressed in the NAMP® Library articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect any official NAMP® policy or position. Examples of analysis performed within this article are only examples. They should not be utilized in real-world application as they are based only on very limited and dated open source information. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of NAMP®. Nothing contained in this article should be considered legal advice.