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Credit Reports: What They Are, How To Get One, How To Fix It

What Should I Look For In My Credit Report?

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Luckily, the credit bureaus provide a reader-friendly version of your credit report that makes checking the report simple. Make sure you do so, thoroughly. Inaccurate entries can lower your credit score.

Step 1. Make sure all your personal information is correct -- including your name, address, and Social Security number.

Step 2. Check each account for the following:

  • Your name and Social Security number. It is possible that your report includes information about someone else who has a similar name or Social Security number.
  • That the report accurately reflects whether the account is single or joint with someone else.
  • Account number.
  • Status of the account. Each account will be listed as open or closed. If an account is closed, make sure the report says so. Too many open accounts can have a negative effect on your credit score.
  • Type of account: Is the type of account accurately reflected as installment, revolving or some other kind?
  • Balances: Is the outstanding balance on the account correct as of the date listed? Don't worry about whether it is accurate to the penny. For this purpose, ballpark numbers will do.
  • Highest Credit or Credit Limit: This is the credit limit on the account or the highest amount you have ever charged. If it's not accurate, it may appear that you're using a greater portion of your available credit than you are. This could possibly lower your credit score.
  • Status of account. This can be a difficult section to review. This section relates to your payment history on the account. Credit bureaus use codes to indicate the number of times you paid the account on time, or the times that you paid 30, 60, 90 or 120 days late.
  • Late Payment History. This is a summary of your total late payment history. Make sure there aren't any late-payment entries that don't make sense to you.
  • Comments. Both you and your creditors may supply comments to the credit report. If there are any, are they accurate?
  • If any suits, judgments, tax liens or similar items are listed, are they still outstanding? If so, are the facts correct? These facts are important for your future credit.
  • Are there any other claims against you listed on the report? Are they accurate? If so, consider clearing them up. At least provide the information necessary to defend against the claim to the person or people who would handle your affairs if you were to become incapacitated or die.
  • Records of debts that you did not incur and inquiries about loans that you did not apply for.
  • Unfamiliar addresses or odd variations of your name. These mistakes to not affect your credit. However, they may suggest your information is being mixed with someone else's.
  • Is there any other incorrect information in the report?

If your report includes coded information it should include a key which explains the codes. Feel free to contact the credit bureau to request an explanation about any information you do not understand.

Step 3. Review your report in total. Do you have good credit standing with any lenders who haven't reported your performance? If so, contact the lender and ask if they would report the experience they've had with you. If the lender won't contact the credit bureau, call the credit bureau yourself and ask that the experience be added to your report.

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