How to read a Credit Report

Have you thought about getting a copy of your Credit Report? Years ago there were complaints that credit reports were hard to read for the consumer. In past years Equifax, Experian and Trans Union had changed the format of the reports to make them more readable and understandable. Each of the 3 Credit Reporting Agencies or ( CRAs) have ways of referencing a credit report with them.

For Instance:
Equifax – Confirmation number
Experian – Report Number
Trans Union – File Number

These particular reference numbers will be asked if you are disputing any of these credit bureaus.

To make matters more difficult, “Credit Report” is not the official term. The Fair Credit Reporting Act calls the credit report for consumers “Consumer Report.” The industry refers to the report that creditors sell as “credit report.” Nether less either one has the same purpose. They give an account of your personal credit history with creditors.
Here is an example of what you need to identity you with all 3 Bureaus.

First Name:_______ Middle Name:________ Last Name:_______

Birth date:_______ Social Security Number:________

Current Address: Typically two year residence history

Current Employer: ________

Here is what to expect to see on your credit report.

1. Your identifying information listed above:
2. Your Payment history, including auto payments, credit card payments, installment loans, and mortgage history.
3. Public Records: bankruptcies, tax or other liens, and judgments.
4. Inquires showing which companies accessed your credit report for different purposes.

Identity Information

This information is very important, and needs to be accurate. The CRAs use your personal information to determine which report to route your information. If you input the wrong information when getting your credit report, it can lead a report that results in mixed files, and other inaccuracies. This definitely pertains to inputting the correct social security numbers. Maybe you are a JR, and your information is getting mixed with your father or son. Believe it or not this is a common problem with credit reports. You may have to dispute this information with the CRA that is reporting incorrectly.

Credit History

A bankruptcy can remain on your credit report for 10 years; other negative information typically is on there for 7 years unless you can get the creditor to give you a letter to delete a negative item from the CRAs. A tax lien that is not paid can stay on your report for ever. Once you pay it, from the paid date it stays on your report for 7 years. Here are terms and there meaning as they are listed on your report.

 Public Records: Bankruptcies, court and default judgments, liens, and foreclosures
 Late Payments: Typically falls into one of the four categories, 30 day late, 60 day late, 90 day late, and 120 day late.
 Charge Offs: Accounts that are in default of original contract and terms. Charge off is a book keeping term which means the creditor reports obligations as a loss.
 Collections: A account that is so delinquent that the obligation is turned over to a collection company for collection.

Typically after all the bad is listed, the report will list all the accounts in good standing. Experian and Trans Union reports “never late”, and Equifax reports as “pays as agreed.”
You will want to always make sure all information is accurate.


Any time someone checks your credit for loan, credit card, installment loan or a mortgage you will have on of two types of inquiries: “hard” and “soft.” Soft inquiries don’t drop your credit score, but too many hard inquiries you could drop your score.

Account History Status Codes

Equifax report will list codes showing how you are classified when you do not pay your bills on time. Also a credit report will show types of credit, “I” for installment loan, “R” for revolving and “M” for mortgage. Here are numeric codes as well.

1: On Time
2: 30-59 Days Past Due
3: 60-89 Days Past Due
4: 90-119 Days Past Due
5: Over 120 Days Past Due
7: Included in Wage Earner Plan
8: Repossession
9: Charge Off
Blank: No Data Available for that month
0: Unrated

Description of Accounts

 Date Account Closed
 Date Account Opened
 Company Name – The Creditor
 Account Number
 High Credit
 Credit Limit
 Terms of payments 360 months or 30 yrs
 Number of months reviewed
 Date Reported
 Balance
 Past Due Date
 Activity
 Date of Last Activity
 Charge Off Amount
 Deferred Payment Date

About the Author: Mike Clover is the owner of is the one of the most unique on-line resources for free credit score report, Internet identity theft software, secure credit cards, and a BlOG with a wealth of personal credit information. The information within this website is written by professionals that know about credit, and what determines ones credit worthiness.

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Disclaimer: This information has been compiled and provided by as an informational service to the public. While our goal is to provide information that will help consumers to manage their credit and debt, this information should not be considered legal advice. Such advice must be specific to the various circumstances of each person's situation, and the general information provided on these pages should not be used as a substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel.