As important as it is to know your credit score, it’s not enough if you want to be on top of your credit game.
In fact, if you want to improve your credit, then it’s time to get familiar with credit scores’ less popular counterpart – the credit report.
While a credit report may sound boring, it unlocks the mystery behind your score. With this simple report, you can learn just about everything you need to know to get your credit score where you want it to be. Here’s what you need to know about how to read a credit report and where to get one for free.
What is a credit report?
A credit report is a statement detailing your financial history as a borrower. If you want to see an example, check out this credit report template from Experian. It includes things like:
- Your personal information
- Your accounts
- Public records
- Credit inquiries
Although a credit report includes your financial accounts, it does not include your credit score. Rather, your credit report details everything that inevitably affects your credit score.
Unfortunately, credit reports and credit scores have become so synonymous over time that many people forget they’re not the same. To keep it simple, remember that your credit report is a detailed description of your credit history, whereas your credit score is a numerical score of your credit history.
How to get a free credit report
There are a lot of websites that will try to mislead you and get you to buy your credit report. Don’t fall for them.
If you want to know how to get a free credit report, it’s very simple. Just go to AnnualCreditReport.com and get your report from each of the three main credit reporting agencies (CRAs):
You’re entitled to one annual free copy from each.
That’s not the only time you’re entitled to a free credit report. If you’re a victim of identity theft, then you also get a free credit report. And if your information has been exposed in a data breach, you might be given free access to your credit report and even free credit monitoring.
Here’s how to read a credit report
It might seem redundant to read your credit report from all three CRAs, but it’s not. Creditors don’t always report information to all three, so it’s possible that each credit report will look different.
Besides that, errors can happen, and they might just occur on only one of the reports from the CRAs. This is just another reason you need to check with all three. As for how to read your credit report(s), follow the steps below.
1. Make sure your personal information is correct
This is one of the most important steps you can take. Make sure your name and any initials are spelled exactly correctly – and triple-check your Social Security number to make sure every digit is right. If any of this information is off, that can mean trouble for you.
Simple errors like a transposed digit in your Social Security number or a spelling error in your name could lead to someone else’s credit activity being reported on your file. Do not move down to the rest of your report until you know for sure that your personal information is correct.
2. Be sure every account listed is, in fact, yours
Also, make sure every account listed is yours as well; the names of some of the accounts might look different than you expect. However, you can double check the fine print on your financial statement to see if that name is aligned with your account.
For example, many retail store cards are owned by banks such as Comenity Bank, and that might be the name you see on your report instead of the store name. In fact, Comenity manages more than 125 retail store cards in the U.S. See myFICO for an up-to-date list of these retailers, including popular stores like Express and Pottery Barn.
But if you review your print or online statement for your card, you’ll see the other name in the fine print. Therefore you’ll be able to tell if that account is yours.
3. Make careful note of any accounts that have gone to collections
You’d be surprised what can show up on a credit report. Reviewing your credit report could alert you to the fact that your student loans are now with a different servicer or that unpaid library book fine has come back to bite you.
What’s more, reading your credit report can help you if you didn’t realize an old account has gone off to collections. Make sure you reconcile every single account on your report. And if any accounts have gone to collections, call the collections company immediately and work out a plan to pay off the debt.
4. Review details such as balances and payment history for accuracy
One of the most important factors in your credit score is payment history. And seeing your payment history on your credit report can open your eyes to how you’ve been doing on that end.
Besides that, check out things like your balances to make sure they’re accurate. They aren’t updated in real time like your statements might be, but make sure they’re not totally off.
5. Note the public records that might show up
Another thing that shows up is public records. That could include judgments against you, bankruptcies, and tax liens. Like everything else, make sure the public record is something you were responsible for.
And don’t be surprised if you see something from a few years ago. These records can stay on your credit report for seven years.
6. Dispute any information that’s incorrect
When you finish reviewing all three of your credit reports, dispute any errors. Just make sure the dispute lines up with the CRA showing the error.
For example, if you’re seeing an error on your Equifax report but your Experian and TransUnion reports are fine, then only dispute your report with Equifax.
Why you should care about your credit report
If it’s not clear already, your credit report provides crucial information when reviewing your overall finances. Anytime you need credit to accomplish a goal in life, just remember your credit report will affect you whether you realize it or not.
As much as things like your credit score seem out of your control, they’re really not. And the first step to regaining the control of your credit score and, thus, your credit opportunities, is to make sure your credit report is in order.
Once you do that, you can work on improving your credit score to be sure you always have access to credit when you need it.
Interested in refinancing student loans?Here are the top 6 lenders of 2018!
|Lender||Variable APR||Eligible Degrees|
|Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at email@example.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.
© 2018 Earnest LLC. All rights reserved. Earnest LLC and its subsidiaries, including Earnest Operations LLC, are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.
2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.
Laurel Road Disclosures
Savings example: average savings calculated based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were disclosed. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.
Application detail: 5 minutes indicates typical time it takes to complete application with applicant information readily available. It does not include time taken to provide underwriting decision or funding of the loan.
Instant rates mean a delivery of personalized rates for those individuals who provide sufficient information to return a rate. For instant rates a soft credit pull will be conducted, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
Total savings calculated by aggregating individual average savings across total borrower population from 9/2013 to 12/2017. Individual average savings calculation based on single loans refinanced from 9/2013 to 12/2017 where borrowers’ previous rates were provided. Assumes same loan terms for previous and refinanced loans, and payments made to maturity with no prepayments. Actual savings for individual loans vary based on loan balance, interest rates, and other factors.
3 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
5 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|2.47% – 6.99%3||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit SoFi|
|2.47% – 5.87%1||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Earnest|
|2.47% – 8.03%4||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Lendkey|
|2.95% – 6.37%2||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Laurel Road|
|2.48% – 6.25%5||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit CommonBond|
|2.72% – 8.32%6||Undergrad & Graduate||Visit Citizens|