HOW TO READ A CREDIT REPORT
You've taken the first step and requested a copy of one or all of the credit reports from the three different bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Good for you! But now that you've got your credit reports, you're having a hard time making sense of them.
You've come to the right place. First, it's important to understand that credit reports are broken down into four sections:
- Identifying Personal Information
- Credit History, both positive and negative
- Public Records
- Credit Requests
Identifying Personal Information
This is the section with your identifying information: name, address, date of birth and social security or tax identification number. Don't be surprised if you notice a few misspellings of your name - for example, Katherine instead of Catherine. As long as those misspellings are not tied to any incorrect transactions, they're nothing to worry about.
This section is sometimes divided into "adverse accounts" and "accounts in good standing." As the name suggests, adverse accounts are accounts which have been charged off or on which you are delinquent. Accounts in good standing are accounts upon which you pay as agreed.
Public records rarely contain any information that will help your credit. They are most often related to bankruptcies.
Credit History Requests
A "soft" credit history request is one that you did not initiate and it will not influence your credit rating. A "hard" credit history request is one that you initiated, usually while trying to obtain some new form of credit such as a car or a house loan. A large number of hard credit requests can damage your credit rating.
These are the four sections of a credit report. If your credit history is positive and the other sections do not contain damaging information, you will probably have a good credit rating. If, on the other hand, you have adverse items on your credit history, a public record, or several hard credit requests, you will probably find yourself with a poor credit rating.
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