Monday, August 16, 2010

Monday Money Sense- Credit Reports

How many credit reports are there?
In the U.S. there are three: Experian, Transunion, and Equifax

What is in a credit report?

  • Personal Identification Information- This section includes your name, current address, previous address(es), social security, employment, and other names you might have had.
  • Credit Account Information- This section includes all credit accounts (open and closed). It shows the payment history, date opened, credit limit, current balance, and high balance(what is the highest the balance has been). It also includes a pay status which is whether the account is in good standing or not. Each account will also show a type of account. The type can be revolving or installment, as well as individual or joint.
  • Public Records- This will be records of public action, such as bankruptcies and foreclosures.
  • Negative Accounts- This is going to be accounts like collection accounts. Collection accounts can be for anything not just credit accounts. It can be a medical bill, library fine, or anything that you owe money for.
  • Promotional Inquiries- These are people/businesses who have pulled your credit report for promotional items. This might also be inquiries from if you pulled it from a free credit report site. These inquiries can only be seen by you and they do not affect your score.
  • Account Review Inquiries- These are businesses that have pulled your credit for an account review or business transaction. These again are only seen by you and do not affect your credit score. This may be your credit card pulling your credit to change your terms.
  • Inquiries- These are inquiries used to establish your credit. These are often inquiries for mortgages, loans, credit cards, and occasionally land lords and insurance. These can be seen by others and do affect your credit.
How often should I check my credit report?
At least once of year. Many people have mistakes on their credit report, and the only way to check them is to check your credit report at least once a year. It takes time to fix mistakes, so you want to catch them well before you try to get a loan. You are entitled to a free credit report from each company annually. You can get it HERE. If you have never checked your credit report, it would be wise to check them all at once. If you have checked your credit report before, you may want to spread out your free ones across the year.

What if I find an error?
Many of the companies have this information on their website, and many you can do online. When you receive your credit report, there should be information on how to start a dispute/investigation. When you start a dispute or investigation, you may need proof of what ever you are claiming (this is especially true for information such as addresses, names, and personal information). For accounts that have errors they will contact the company and ask them to verify the information on the report. It can be very long and annoying process. Once the investigation is complete, the company will send you a notice of it's completion and you will receive a new credit report. 

What if the dispute comes back and says the information is right, but I know it is wrong?
I definitely understand this one. I once checked my credit report to find two collections on it. Both were from medical accounts that I had no idea I owed money on. They were both due to billing/insurance issues (and ironically neither medical office ever sent me a bill). These took some work on my part of calling the medical offices and the insurance companies. In the end they told me they would remove it from my credit report, but I filed another dispute stating that with the credit bureaus, just in case. Disputes can be very annoying, but stand strong. You should also keep copies of everything concerning your dispute, and make sure that it stays removed.

Hopefully that makes things a little clearer, but feel free to ask any questions! Next week we will look at credit scores.

For more Money Sense, click here.


  1. On the free credit score place you listed there.. will it take points away from my credit report when I check it there? we haven't checked ours in a yr and I know we should especially since we are going to start looking into buying a house by next year. Thank you

  2. Nope, it won't, since it is a law to allow you one credit report from each company a year.
    In fact, the only person who will be able to see you checked it is you. The only credit pulls that affect your score are those done by banks to determine your credit worthiness, and even then it's only if you have several inquiries by different companies. And oddly enough, even that has exceptions such as if you are getting a mortgage loan, you are going to shop around for a good rate, so if you do all of that shopping in a 2 week period, then it will only count once.

    I would highly recommend that if you are going to buy a house that you check your credit report now, and possibly even pay for a score. That way you can resolve any problems now. I think it took about 6 months to resolve one of my problems (a collection due billing/insurance errors) because I had to argue with the insurance company that they were supposed to pay it, and then with the medical provider that they didn't bill it right, and then finally after it got paid, arguing with them to remove it from my report because it should have never made it there. All the while I had to submit disputes to the credit bureaus. It was aggravating to say the least.