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It’s easier to review your credit report successfully when you know and understand all the parts, what they mean, and how they affect your credit situation. AND….GO…

  • Personal Information

Credit reporting agencies use your personal information to confirm you are the person who opened the accounts listed on your report. Check this section carefully to make sure your information is correct and current. The wrong information could mean that you are being charged for another person’s debt!

  • Public Records

Bankruptcies (sometimes foreclosures) are the only public records that appear on a credit report. They appear as long as 10 years. Negative information may lead to a higher interest rate or being turned down for credit.

  • Account Information

In this section, your credit accounts are displayed one by one. Lenders typically update the information monthly. The information usually includes: payment history, if an account is current or past due, balance, and type of loan or account. If the name of the creditor seems unfamiliar, it may be the name of the parent company. Check the fine print on your statements to verify. If the report shows an account that is not yours, you have the right to dispute it. And should!

Account information appears as satisfactory/in good standing or adverse/potentially negative. Pay attention to this and make sure it seems to match what you know about your account.

  • Satisfactory Accounts

These are in good standing because nothing negative has been reported. An account is usually still reported as current if you paid within 30 days of the due date! Pay on time. This protects your credit score.

  • Potentially Negative Accounts

These accounts are past due or in collections. Negative information like that is reported for seven years. SEVEN. You may see that the original creditor has a different company name. Lenders sometime hire outside companies to collect on their behalf OR sell the debt. The new company is then listed on your credit report with the original lender.

  • Credit Inquiries

Credit reporting companies receive inquiries from businesses, lenders, or employers when they ask to review your credit report. The reason for the inquiry determines if it could affect your credit score.

Hard Inquiries: Made by a lender or creditor when you APPLY for credit. They can affect your credit score because most credit scoring models look at how recently you applied for credit and how often you do so.

Soft Inquiries: Recorded when your credit file is reviewed for reasons other than your application for credit. When a lender checks an existing account, when you request your credit report, or when a potential lender prescreens you for a credit offer. They do NOT affect your credit score.


Make checking your credit report a regular habit. You are entitled to request a FREE copy of your credit report, once every 12 months, from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Visit, call (877) 322-8228, or download and complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to the address on the form.

  • Take Action

Take action promptly to correct errors. You can use sample letters to dispute errors on your credit report or respond to debt collection efforts. These letters are available at

Learn more at

Or call and schedule an appointment to review your credit reports with a financial counselor! We’re here for you. You are not alone!

Portions excerpted from CFPB (Consumer Finance Protection Bureau)

Holli Lewandowski, Certified Credit Counselor, Educator, and Advocate