How to Understand Credit Report

Now that you have obtained your credit report, the first thing you need to do is read through it and understand what it all means. Don’t feel bad if you don’t understand what the credit report is saying to you. Most credit reports are coded because it allows shorter time for the computer to transmit all the information between the reporting agency and its clients. All reports should have the codes print directly on the back of the report itself or on a separate attachment telling you what the codes stand for.

Credit Bureaus may not all have the same format on how the report should look, but they all have the same information included on the report. Equifax is the only credit-reporting agency that provides consumers with a credit report in a column format. This means that Equifax reports are easier to read and easier to understand. In this chapter you will be shown examples of what is on the report from Equifax, Trans Union and Experian/TRW.

EQUIFAX: They often separate out the accounts with the different collection agencies. The Company Name is the name of the business reporting the information. In many cases, just below the company name is a description of the type of account (such as student loans, credit card or line of credit), some payment history and or the account’s status (such as charge off, collection account, payment deferred, account transferred or account closed by consumer.)

o The Account Number is the number from the company reporting the information and who is responsible for the account and what type of obligation you have. Here are sample codes explaining what they are:

A = Authorized user (of someone else’s account)

B= On behalf of another person

C= Co-maker/Co-signer

I= Individual

J= Joint

M= Maker

S= Shared

T= Terminated

U= Undesignated

o Date Opened is the month and year you opened the account.

o Month’s Review is the number of months for which your account payment history has been reported to the credit bureaus and when it was last looked at.

o Date of Last Activity is the date of the most recent month and year that something happened on the account. This may be the last time you made a payment or when the account was charged off or sent to collections. This date is important because negative information can stay on your report for up to seven years after the date of the last activity.

o High Credit is the credit amount of any loan you took out, your credit limit or possibly the highest amount you have ever charged on that specific account.

o Terms indicate either the number of installments you have (indicate by an M) to pay off the debt or the amount of your monthly payment.

o Balance is the amount you owed on the account when the creditor last provided the credit bureaus with the information.

o Past Dues is the amount past due on the account when the creditor last provided the credit bureaus with information.

o Status indicates both the type of account and your payment history that you have made.

o Type of Account: I stands for (Installment) meaning payment amount is fixed each month; O stands for (Open) meaning entire balance is due each month); R stands for (Revolving) meaning payment amount is variable each month.

o Payment History Codes: 0= too new to review; 1= Paid as agreed; 2= 30+ days past due; 3= 60+ days past due; 4= 90+ days past due; 5= 120+ days past due or account sent to collection; 6= Making regular payments under wage earner plan 7= Repossession 8= Charged off to bad debt.

o Date Reported is the date the creditor last provided Equifax with the information. Creditors who have requested a copy of your report are listed in the final section with the date they requested your report. Under Equifax’s policies, coded inquiries are given only to you and other creditors are not allowed to see them.

TRANS UNION: Breaks down the credit information into several subsections.

o Public Records. This section includes information obtained from local, state and federal courts and offices including lawsuits, bankruptcies and liens. Any information that is public accessible.

o Accounts with Negative Marks. Trans Union separates out the accounts that contain information which some creditors may consider to be adverse and highlights the negative information by enclosing it in brackets. The bracketed information usually includes the account’s status, any past due amount and information on any late payments that you have made.

o Accounts without Negative Marks. Immediately following the negative accounts, Trans Union lists the accounts that are reported with no adverse information. Both the accounts without negative marks and those with no adverse information contain the following information: the name of the company, account number, the type of credit extended to you, the date the creditor last provided Trans Union with the updated information, the amount you owed on the account when the creditor last provided Trans Union with your balance, the person who is responsible for the account, the month and year you opened the account, the amount of any loan you took out, or the highest amount you have ever charged on that specific account, your credit limit on a revolving or open account, or the amount of your monthly payments and number of months that it took you to pay off an installment debt, the month and year you or the creditor closed the account, and the status of your account as of the last date the account was updated. Items such as charged off as bad credit, collection account, paid as agreed, payment after charge off or collection are also on the report.

o Inquiries-Full Disclosure. Trans Union divides your inquires into two sections.
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The first section lists the companies that received your full credit report in response to your request for credit. These inquiries stay on your credit report for at least two years.

o Inquiries-Partial Disclosure. Some companies received only your name and address for the purpose of making you a credit offer or to review your accounts. These inquiries stay on your credit report for up to a year and are not seen by other creditors.

EXPERIAN / TRW: This credit bureau summarizes the contents into two categories,
one section for listings of creditors who receive your report for offering you credit, and the second for their own purpose of marketing.

o The report starts off with potentially negative items such as public records and accounts with creditors and others and then is followed with accounts in good standing. On each page of this report, the consumer’s name and a unique number appear on the top corner.

o Experian / TRW provides you with information affecting your credit worthiness. The items listed with dashes before and after the number, such as -3-, may have a negative affect on your credit.

o Those items are listed first; beginning with public records and followed by credit accounts. After the negative entries, the item for which there are no negative entries follows.

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