Your credit history is an ongoing record of information detailing which credit cards or loans you have opened and/or closed over time, whether or not you have been late with any payments, and more. All of this information is available in a document called a credit report. What exactly goes into your credit report?
First, your personal information including your name, Social Security Number (SSN), birth date and current and past addresses is listed. Current and former places of employment are sometimes included, along with any important “alerts” including whether or not you have been the victim of identity theft and if you are currently serving in active duty in the military.
Your report also includes a comprehensive listing of all trade lines loans, credit cards, mortgages and other outstanding debt currently open in your name. Any credit cards or loans you have closed or already paid off (called inactive accounts) will remain on your credit report for seven to ten years. Your bank account information (savings and checking account balances, for instance), is not included; however, if you have overdrawn your bank account it can be noted in your credit report.
Each open loan or credit card is listed, along with the amount of money you owe on each. Other information including outstanding balances, monthly payment amounts, and credit limits are also included, along with the name of each lender and the account numbers for each loan.
Late payments are recorded in your report in the past-due column, along with what is called your account status i.e., whether your account is in good standing or has been reported to a collection agency for late or non-payment.
You are entitled to one free copy of your credit report annually, and can access your report anytime thereafter for a small fee. These are called “administrative inquiries” and do not affect your credit report or overall credit score. However, anytime a lender or other entity “pulls,” or requests a copy of, your credit report, it is noted and recorded in your report for one year. Too many inquiries over a 12-month period can negatively impact your report, possibly indicating to other potential lenders that you may be applying for too many credit cards or loans and could become financially over-extended.
Matters of Public Record
Official information regarding any liens currently open against you (for late or non-payment on your taxes), bankruptcies you may have declared in the past 10 years, lawsuits or legal judgments filed against you, or any child support requirements, are also included in your credit report. This information can stay on your credit report for up to seven years.
What is Not In Your Report?
Your credit report includes lots of information on your accounts, loans, etc., but it does not include what is sometimes referred to as your credit score. Your credit score is calculated based on the information included in your credit report but it is not a part of the actual report itself.
Your credit report also does not include information on your race, gender, ethnicity, religion, marital status, medical or criminal history, or political affiliation.
Credit Report Glossary
Account Number: Your account number may be abbreviated or scrambled when it appears on your credit report. This is for security purposes.
Charge-off: An account maybe labeled this way if it has gone unpaid for an extended period of time, usually 180 days. At this point, the creditor may write off the account as “bad debt” for tax purposes. However, the debt still exists and is collectable with fees and interest.
Credit Limit: The maximum amount of credit extended to you on a particular account, as determined by the lender.
Credit Summary: Sometimes referred to as “trade lines,” this section lists the total number of open and closed accounts in your name, as well as those accounts’ balances and whether there are delinquencies.
Creditor: The business or person who has loaned you money.
Geographic Locator Codes: Similar to a ZIP code, this piece of data from the U.S. Census Bureau identifies your state, Metropolitan Statistical Area, county, tract and block group as defined by your reported address.
High Balance: This is the highest amount of money you have ever owed on a particular account.
Inquiries: This section includes a listing of everyone who has asked to review your credit report. It can include landlords, potential lenders, employers, and insurers. Only inquiries resulting from your application for a credit card, mortgage, car loan, etc. are factored into your credit score.
Installment Loan: This is a credit account that you pay a set amount every month for a period of time. For example, car and student loans are installment loans.
Last Reported: This is the last time your creditor updated the information about your account.
Mortgage: When you buy a house or condo, the loan document is recorded in official records, called a mortgage. A lien is placed on the property until the loan is paid off.
Paid As Agreed: This statement means that your account is in good standing because you’ve made all payments on time.
Payment Grid: This calendar shows creditors and lenders how many late payments you’ve made over the course of a loan. The information may be incomplete if the credit bureau did not receive information from your creditor.
Payment Rating: On a scale of one to nine, this data illustrates how often you pay your bills on time. A score of “1” means that you always pay on time, while “9” means you rarely do. If the number is preceded by an “I,” this means the rating is for an installment account. If there’s an “R,” the rating is for a revolving account.
Payment Scale: This piece of information illustrates the number of times you’ve paid your bills 30, 60 or 90 days after the due date.
Personal Information: This section may include your full name and Social Security Number (SSN), as well as your past and current employers, telephone numbers and addresses. If you notice out-of-date or incorrect information, be sure to have it corrected.
Personal Statement: You have the option to include a short statement on your credit report for the purposes of explaining a situation that affects your credit history. For example, the statement could explain a dispute with a creditor or notify others that you were a victim of identity theft. The statement can be viewed by anyone with access to your report and will remain there for two years.
Potentially Negative Items: This section includes things that potential creditors may find unsatisfactory. They include bankruptcies, liens and judgment information obtained from court records.
Promotional Inquiry: This is a request to view your credit report on behalf of someone who wants to send you an unsolicited offer for credit. These inquiries are not included in the calculation of your credit score and only appear on your copy of your credit report.
Public Records: This section is populated with information from federal, district, state and county court records. It can include information about bankruptcies, tax liens, and monetary judgments. In some states, overdue child support records will also be listed here. These items stay on your credit report for seven to 10 years or more.
Report Number (Experian Only): This is a unique number assigned by Experian that references your credit report. If you need to contact Experian about your report, it may be helpful to share this number.
Responsibility: This piece of data indicates whether the credit account is in one person’s name (individual), or joint or co-signed with another person. If the account is joint or co-signed, it will appear on both people’s credit reports and any late payments or defaults will negatively affect both people’s credit scores.
Revolving Account: This is a credit account in which you have a per-determined limit and are authorized to borrow up to that limit at any time. Credit cards and Home Equity Lines of Credit (HELOC) are an example of this type of account.
Terms: This describes your agreement with your credit as to how often you’ll make payments on an account and for how long.
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