Little Known Ways to Understand Credit Reports

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Learn how your report works for or against you

There are a lot of reasons to obtain and review a copy of your credit report. It may be as part of a pre-qualifying process for a mortgage. You may need to look at it to determine if there are old entries that need to be removed. Or you may want to simply check it to be sure there are no errors.

You should know that under federal law, you have a right to obtain a copy of your credit report once a year for free from each of the three credit reporting bureaus: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.

But once you have the report in hand, you may have trouble understanding it. There are a lot of numbers and abbreviations that you may have never seen before and certainly can’t understand. There are also inquiries and actions you may not understand either, and you may not know how to go about gaining that understanding. A credit report is divided into four sections: identifying information, public records, credit history and inquiries. Identifying information is exactly what the name implies – it’s information that’s used to identify you. This includes your Social Security number, date of birth, telephone numbers, driver’s license number, employers and spouse’s name.Your credit history will show each of your creditors and the account number, along with information about the account, such as when it was opened and what kind of credit it is.Public records show things like bankruptcies, judgments and tax liens. These are things that can destroy your credit more quickly than anything else. And the final section is inquiries, which shows a list of everyone who has asked to see your credit report.Once you’ve come to understand these areas of your credit report, and why they matter, you’ll have a firm grasp on your overall credit history – and you’ll begin to make it work for you, rather than against you.

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