It’s advisable to check your credit report at least once a year to gain an understanding of how your credit score appears to your creditors. The thing is, when we do check our reports, we have trouble making sense of it. So how do you read a credit report?

There are four main parts to a credit report. Your personal profile, credit history, public records and inquiries. Read over each section of the report and scan it for errors.

1. Personal Profile – Your personal profile contains all your basic information such as your name, address, birth date, social security numbers, and previous addresses and employers. Misspelling of your name can be common when creditors record your name wrong. However, it is important to check if there is any discrepancy in address as this can alert you of a possible identity theft.

2. Credit History – This is where you can find an itemized list of your current and past accounts, including balances and arrears. You will find the name of the creditor and account number for each bill. There will also be a column that identifies the nature of the account such as individual, joint, authorized user, terminated, and others. Other information such as the history of the account may also be seen.

This part of the report will show whether you have a high credit limit and it also indicates the number of installments you have left for any loan. The balance remaining on the account, any due amounts, and the status of accounts will be noted.

Creditors will also check whether you have more revolving accounts than installment accounts. Revolving accounts is one wherein there is no fixed ending date to the debt. Installment accounts are when there are fixed payment and a specific ending date. Revolving debts are less attractive to creditors and will not help build your credit.

3. Public Records – This report contains records that will also be seen in local, state and federal courts. This shows whether you have declared bankruptcy, have tax liens and other monetary cases. Even overdue child support records may be included. Public records will remain with your credit score for seven to ten years and can be a negative blow against your credit score.

4. Inquiry – Inquiries are classified between hard or soft. Hard inquiries are those initiated by you, while soft inquiries may come from companies that wish to offer promotions on credit and current creditors that are monitoring your account. It is generally not advisable to have too many creditors view your credit report as the frequency of inquiries can appear as a negative to some lenders.

Finally, your credit score may be seen in your report. This score will determine whether an individual will qualify for a loan or not. High credit scores will mean better rates for the borrower, while lower rates can also leave the borrower subject to loan denial. Credit scores can range from 300 to 850.

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