Now that you have a copy of a personal credit report, you may have some questions about how to read the data and interpret what it is telling you. Credit reports come in several versions and formats, some easier to read than others. Typically reports from lenders fall into the more difficult to read category. On the other hand, credit reports obtained directly from the credit bureaus are designed for consumers and are therefore easier to understand. Below is an example that will guide you through a typical Credit Report.

What kind of information does your credit report contain?

Your credit report contains information about your past and present personal and financial situation.

Consumer Information 

This section contains information about you, the consumer.  It includes your name, your current and previous addresses, and your current employer.
Consumer Statement

This section contains a personal comment that you submitted to the credit bureaus to be included in your report.

Summary Information

This section divides your accounts into five (5) types, then provides detailed information about the condition of those accounts.   It also summarizes your open and closed accounts, public records, and inquiries.

Types of Accounts

Real Estate Accounts are your home mortgage(s) including the first and any secondary mortgages

   Revolving Accounts, such as credit card accounts, are open-term accounts with payment amounts that vary depending upon the account balances and the account terms.

   Installment Accounts, such as car loans, are fixed-term accounts with fixed regular payment amounts.

•   Other Accounts are accounts that don’t fit into one of the other account types previously listed or where the exact terms are not known

  Collection Accounts are accounts that are significantly past due and that have been transferred either to the creditor’s collections department, or to an external collector such as a collection agency.


Within each of the five (5) account type are these categories of information.
Balance– The sum of your outstanding accounts in this category
Payment – The sum of your monthly payments for all items in this category
Current – The number of accounts in this category for which your payments are up to date
Delinquent – The number of accounts in this category for which your payments are past due
Derogatory – The number of accounts in this category that can have a negative impact on your overall credit rating.
Unknown – The number of accounts in this category for which the credit bureau did not report the condition of the account.

Additional Summary Information

Open/Closed Accounts – A total number of all accounts including open and  closed accounts.
Public Records – Public records are records of legal matters that impact your credit and include any bankruptcies, tax liens (state or federal) or civil-action judgments against you.

The information about public records contained in this category includes:

   the number of public records, and

  the total amount of money involved in all of your public records.

  Inquiry – An inquiry is the record of a request from a third party, such as a bank or retail establishment, for your credit report. The number of inquiries is the total number of inquiries made for your credit report in the most recent two (2) years.

ACCOUNT HISTORY INFORMATION section provides detailed information about all Credit Accounts.
This section makes up most of the report. It will include Mortgage, Installment, Revolving, Other, Open and Closed Accounts. It will also list Accounts in Good Standing, Accounts Currently Past due and Negative Account History.

This section provides detailed information about all credit accounts in your name. Accounts are divided into five categories—Real Estate, Revolving, Installment, Other, and Collection.

Creditor Name: The abbreviated name of the person or agency that gave you the credit account, such as a bank, credit card company, or mortgage lender.

Account Number: An identifying number for your account. Typically, this would be a credit card number for a credit card account, or a loan identification number for a mortgage.

Type: The type of account. Some common account types are Real Estate, Automobile, Educational, and Credit Card.

Condition: A detailed description of the account’s payment status as of the last reported date.

Responsibility: The role that you play in the account. For example, “Individual” or “Joint.”

Pay Status: The state of the account. For example, “Open” or “Closed.”

Date Opened: The date when the account was opened.

Date Reported: The last date when any activity in this account was shown. Activities include payments, credit card billings, etc. Very recent activities may not yet show on your account, since it takes time for them to appear in the bureaus’ computer system.

Balance and Limit: The amount you presently owe on the account (based on the last reported activity) compared to the maximum amount of credit approved. Very recent activities may not yet have appeared in the bureaus’ computer system, so this balance may be a few days out-of-date.

Payment and Terms: The amount and number of monthly payments scheduled.

High Balance: The most you have ever owed on this account. In the case of a credit card, for example, this would be the highest balance you’ve ever accumulated. For a mortgage, it would be the initial amount of the mortgage, not the current paid-down principal.

Past Due: The amount of payment overdue as of the most recent reported activity. Very recent payments may take a few days to appear on your credit report.

Remarks: If there are any remarks by you or your creditor included in the account information, these remarks will appear here.

Two Year Payment History: At the bottom of the account information, you will see a histogram that graphically illustrates your payment history over the past two years.

Seven Year Payment History: A record of any late payments that have occurred over the past seven years.


A collection is an account that has been turned over to a collection agency by one of your creditors because you have not paid the account as agreed. Collection Agency Information section lists collection accounts and details such as collector’s name, originating creditor/client, original amount, balance due and account number. Collection accounts can appear as paid or unpaid accounts.

Public Record Information 

Public records section includes bankruptcies, judgments, liens, satisfied judgments, and satisfied liens. All court records, including satisfactions, are considered negative by all credit grantors.

Also this section will provide detail information for those public records such as:
Type – The kind of account, such as a bankruptcy, a tax lien, etc.
Status – The current status (resolved or not) of that record.
Date Filed/Reported – The date the record was originally created.
How Filed – How the record was filed – generally filed individually or jointly.
Reference # – The record’s identifying number (a legal or court reference number, or case number.
Closing/Released Date – The date that the record was closed or released
Court – The name of the entity (court or agency) exercising jurisdiction over the record.
Amount – The amount in dollars of any lien or judgment.
Remarks – Remarks by the legal entity or by you that are included in the official public record.

Additional Information for Bankruptcy only
Liability – The amount of repayment for which the court determined you are legally responsible
Exempt Amount – The amount for which the court determined you are not legally responsible
Asset Amount – Personal Assets, including objects of value, that were considered in the court’s decision.

Inquiry Information

This section provides details about all inquiries made for your credit history including the inquirer’s name and the inquiry date. You can use this information to keep track of those who access your credit report.  Remember that only those with whom you have, or have requested, a credit relationship may make this inquiry.

Inquiries that you make about your own credit will not have a negative impact on your credit, however an excessive number of inquiries by others may.

Creditor Information
This section lists all of the creditors and potential creditors listed on your credit report including those in the Account History and Inquiry sections, as well as their address and phone number when available.  It will be necessary to contact them by mail if their phone numbers are unlisted.

Credit Scoring-FICO

How important is your FICO score? If you’re buying a house or car, getting insurance, or even applying for a job, it can be critical. Your FICO score, also known as your credit score, helps lenders determine what interest rate to give you, and many insurers use it to determine your premiums. A low score can even prevent you from renting the apartment you want or, worse yet, make you ineligible for certain jobs.

Surprisingly, with so much riding on this number, very few people understand how the FICO score is calculated, what the score means, or what they can do to improve their scores. Isn’t it time you learned more?

1. Evaluate your score. The point system used technically ranges from 0 – 999, but all or nearly all actual scores fall between 330 and 850.

  • 330 – 619: Poor credit. In banker jargon a person with a score in this range is considered a “Credit Leper.”
  • 620 – 659: Sub-prime financing will be available to you.
  • 660 – 720: Prime financing will be available to you.
  • 721 – 750: Prime – x% may be available to you. That is, you may be able to get interest rates on loans that are even lower than the prime rate.
  • 751+: Excellent credit. May enable you to get even lower prime -x% interest rates depending on the credit type you’re utilizing.

2. Understand what affects your credit. The exact calculation of the FICO score is kept secret as proprietary information, but there are some general guidelines we can apply.

  • 35% of your credit score is based on your consistent payment history and only includes payments later than 30 days past due.
  • 30% is based on the percentage of your credit capacity being used; i.e., the ratio of current credit debt in comparison to total available credit or revolving credit. If you carry very low balances on credit cards, your score will be higher than if all your cards are nearly maxed out.
  • 15% of your score is determined by the length of your credit history.
  • 10% is based on the types of credit you have; i.e., installments (car payments, student loans, or a mortgage), revolving (credit cards or lines of credit), and consumer finance (bank loans and the equivalent).
  • 10% is based on recent searches for credit and/or the amount of credit you’ve recently obtained. Every time you apply for credit it affects your score negatively.

Identify Negative Items That Lower Your Credit Score

TransUnion and Equifax are the 2 main national credit reporting agencies that maintain these records and data. Each of these credit bureaus works independently from others to gather information from lenders and creditors and other businesses with the intention to maintain accurate and up to date consumer credit profiles. This information is then requested by other creditors, lenders, insurers, employers and landlords to be used in evaluating an individual’s financial responsibility.

After you’ve obtained a copy of your credit reports, you must review them carefully to identify any items that are negatively impacting your credit score.  These could be negative inaccuracies related to:
• Bankruptcy Filing Records
• Items Included in Bankruptcy
• Charge-offs (Paid and Un-paid)
• Collections (Paid and Un-paid)
• Late Payments
• Negative Duplicate Accounts
• Negative Closed Accounts
• Inquiries
• Wage Earner Plan
• Foreclosures
• Judgments (Civil or Small Claims)
• Late Payments
• Repossessions (Legal or Voluntary)
• Tax Liens (State or Federal)
Once you have identified all the items that are negatively impacting your credit score,
Highlight everything you believe to be:
  • Incomplete
  • Incorrect
  • Inaccurate
  • Questionable or Unknown
  • Outdated (delinquent accounts more than six (7) years old, bankruptcies and other public records older than 10 years.
  • Errors
  • Make sure your personal Information is correct
  • Make sure your accounts are listed correctly
  • Make sure your credit lines are listed correctly
  • Make sure you recognize all the accounts and you are sure that they belong to you
  • Make sure your balances are listed correctly
  • If you closed an account, it should say “Account closed BY CONSUMER.”
  • Make sure you recognize all the public records listed
  • Make sure you recognize all the credit inquiries

You can also use Payment History Codes to identify Derogatory Items:

R – Revolving (most often a Credit Card)
I – Installment (most often a Mortgage or Auto Loan)
R2 or I2 = 30 Days Late
R3 or I3 = 60 Days Late
R4 or I4 = 90 Days Late
R5 or I5 = 120 Days Late
R7 or I7 = Regular Payments are being made under the Wage Earner Plan
R8 or I8 = Repossession
R9 or I9 = Bad debt, tax lien, charge-off, placed for collection or bankruptcy. Each item on your credit report carries a corresponding ratings number that summarizes your account status.

You can challenge just about every negative item listed on your credit report that you believe are inaccurate, incomplete, misleading or outdated and should be removed or corrected.

Credit Bureaus have thirty (30) days to investigate your request and make changes on your Credit Report.
If the credit bureau cannot verify that a credit item is accurate and timely, it must be removed from your credit report.

Your credit reports follow you throughout your life and can help you greatly — or hurt you so review them carefully!