If you're reading this article, you probably know that establishing and living according to a reasonable budget will help you maintain healthy credit by keeping your spending under control. You are probably also aware that monitoring your credit score and report are key steps towards building the credit of your dreams. Accessing and obtaining your credit report do not have to be difficult. By simply visiting any number of websites you can download and print your credit report successfully. But now what? How do you decipher all the data that is on your credit report and use it to improve your credit? We are so glad you asked!
Reading and understanding your credit report can mean the difference between fair and great credit. Having a solid understanding of where you stand with your lenders, guarantors, lien holders, creditors, financers, and so forth will not only inform you as to your current credit circumstance but it will empower you to change it for the best. There are a few things we will need to discuss before you can consider yourself an expert at reading and understanding your credit report. We will discuss the layout and format of your report, each individual category included in your report, how information is added to or taken away from your report, your rights and your role is in the cycle of information appearing on your report, and more. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, however. We’ll begin with the layout and format of your credit report.
What is visible when your credit report is obtained is considered the format. More specifically, the way the information is organized, structured, and laid out on the document itself is known as the layout, hence the name. This structure is not haphazardly selected, but rather is intentionally selected for a purpose. The three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion each have their own format for credit reporting. The information you find on your report from either of the bureaus will differ some from what creditors see when they request your report. For the most part, the information will be consistent. However, the order that you find the information in is what you can expect to see differ slightly. The categories of information that you will see are as follows:
This shows the data used for requesting your report. It is your personal identifiable information such as your name, current address, former address, place of employment, and social security number.
A report header appears at the top of reports to identify the operator, the user reference, as well as relevant dates and times.
One or more credit scores may appear here, along with reason codes.
These are possible fraud indicators. Your social security number is used or associated with other names or reported as deceased are prime examples.
This category provides a record of the check against the Office of Foreign Assets Control database for USA Patriot Act compliance.
Consumer Referral Address
This shows the credit bureau contact information such as phone number and address.
This shows the full name the credit bureau has on file. SINCE indicates the date the file was established, FAD is the date the file was last updated, FN is the internal file number.
This one’s pretty obvious! Current and former addresses with dates reported are listed here.
BDS/Social Security Number
Birth date and one or more social security numbers associated with you will be listed here.
Up to four lines here will show your recent employers.
Here is a quick overview of the remainder of the report including the date range covered, existence of public records or other information, existence of collection items, foreign bureau accounts and how many, accounts and how many, range of lowest credit limit to highest credit limit or balances, and derogatory items.
If you have made excessive recent inquiries or recent applications for credit, that information will appear here.
This section may include docket number and dollar amounts from garnishments, bankruptcies, judgements, and other court records.
Here specific details about your credit accounts will appear such as account numbers, terms of agreement, credit limit, balance owed, 24 month history, delinquencies (30/60/90), and more.
This is where you get to tell your side of the story. It is always a good idea to include a customer statement for items that may have been unsuccessfully disputed, or to explain late payments or other derogatory items. A fraud victim alert may also be included here.
Well there you have it! You now know what potential creditors see when they “pull” your credit and how it compares to the report you can obtain. We will continue our discussion by looking more closely at each individual category included in your report, how information is added to or taken away from your report, your rights, your role in the cycle of information appearing on your report, and more. Until next time, happy credit building!