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What’s On Your Credit Report?

While credit report formats can also vary slightly, there are four sections that are included in every credit score:11

  • Personal Information
  • Credit History
  • Inquiries
  • Public Records

Personal Information:

Your personal information doesn’t impact your credit score—it’s just used to identify who you are—but mistakes in your personal information can cause mix-ups. Because inaccuracies in your personal information—like an address you’ve never lived at, or the wrong social security number—can be an identity theft red flag, it’s worth the time to give it a close read and make sure they’ve got their facts straight. 11

Credit History:

The credit history section is an overview of your relationship with creditors over the last seven years. In this section, you’ll find a list of your current and past creditors, the type of accounts you held with them (for example, a credit card, mortgage or car loan), how long you’ve had the account, and your payment history.

This section also records the total amount of the loan (your debt), how much you still need to pay back (your “outstanding balance”), the amount of your monthly payments, and the status of the account (for example, “open,” “inactive,” or “paid in full”). If there’s another person on the account, like your spouse or a co-signer, this person’s name will also appear in this section.11

Inquiries:

The inquiry section records—you guessed it!—inquiries into your credit history. An inquiry just means that someone’s accessed your report for the purposes of determining your eligibility for a new loan, credit application or other offer.

A “hard” inquiry happens when you’ve requested consideration for a new loan or line of credit; the lender will review your credit report to determine whether or not to approve the request.

A “soft” inquiry is when an institution (like a credit card company) reviews your credit report to determine your eligibility for a loan or line of credit you didn’t request—like one of the promotional credit card offers that come in the mail. While soft inquiries won’t harm your credit score, multiple hard inquiries within a short period of time can—that’s one reason you want to carefully consider applying for any new loan or credit card.11

Public Records:

The public records section contains reports of any legal action taken against your financial accounts. It only covers three types of legal action: bankruptcies, tax liens and civil judgments, and doesn’t include any legal history that isn’t related to your finances (like arrests or misdemeanors).12

This section will include information like the number of times you have been sent to collections, any bankruptcies you’ve declared, foreclosures, tax liens, or civil judgments against you.

An account may also be listed as being “in good standing”— and that’s great news for you, too! It means your creditor has given you the thumbs up for holding up your end of the bargain and satisfactorily meeting the terms of your agreement. Not all creditors report “consumer credit information” (that’s the information about you that appears on your credit report), so if you don’t see one of your accounts listed, that’s probably why.12

Expert Advice

Joann Needleman, Consumer Financial Protection Board CAB Member

“Credit reporting is vitally important. You have to remember, credit reports are used for job applications. Employers look at credit reports. How you meet the responsibilities of your bills and your payments, says a lot about your character and who you are.”

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