How to Review a Credit Report

You’ve probably heard the advise that you should be reviewing your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus every twelve months. I recommend staggering the requests so that you get an Equifax report in the Spring, a TransUnion report in mid-summer, and an Experian report as Winter starts. By staggering them this way, you get a look at your report three times a year, rather than only once.

The thing most people don’t tell you is what you should be looking at when you do review the report, right? Well, today I’m going to help you go through your credit report.

Request Your Credit Report

First things first, request a credit report from one of the bureaus through AnnualCreditReport.com. The website is set up by the government for this very purpose, don’t go anywhere else for a credit report. Once you have your report, these are the four sections you want to pay careful attention to (the sections may have different names but they will contain the same information):

  • Accounts: This section will list all of your credit accounts and separate them into four categories – mortgage, installment, revolving, and “other.” Review each of your listed accounts for correctness. Big things to look for are whether the account is accurately recorded (on-time payments, your name, the account number, etc.) and whether you actually own it.
  • Inquiries: This section will list all of the times a third party requested your credit history. The list will be separated into two sections, inquiries that may impact your credit rating and inquiries that don’t. The ones that do are known as hard inquiries, the ones that don’t are known as soft inquiries. You should be aware of every inquiry on this list.
  • Negative information: This section will list anything negative on your account such as past-due accounts, accounts in collections, or any publicly available recorded information like bankruptcies, liens, and judgments. You should be aware of every account listed here because these are significant negative items.
  • Personal information: This section doesn’t impact your credit rating but can impact other things, so ensure that your personal identifying information is correct.

Be Sure to Review the Credit Report

Review those sections of your report for accuracy and dispute anything that is wrong or just a little inaccurate. Accuracy is very important because your score is being used for a lot more than loans these days, so you’ll want to make sure everything is correct.

The one thing you won’t get with your credit report is a credit score. AnnualCreditReport.com will get you your credit report, for your score you’ll have to sign up with a credit monitoring service with one of the bureaus. They are free trials, but they will bill you after the trial period. If you want more information, you can review my post on free credit scores.

Jim Wang is the editor of personal finance blog Bargaineering.com and writes about money issues from budgeting to investing, from credit cards to banking. To learn more, check out Bargaineering or follow Jim on Twitter.

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