Learn How to Read Your Free Credit Reports to Help You Manage Your Money

The different sections and categories can be confusing if you've never read your credit report before

Multicolored Question Mark / Learn How to Read Your Free Credit Reports to Help You Manage Your Money
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March 01, 2017

You probably know that the law entitles you to a free copy of your credit report every year from the three major credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You may even know that the best place to request copies of these reports is AnnualCreditReport.com. But do you know how to read your report when you get it?

General Sections

Your credit report is split into roughly three general sections: personal information, public record information, and creditor information. Each section contains the following information:

  • Personal Information: Your name, address, etc.
  • Public Record Information: Any bankruptcies, liens, or wage garnishments
  • Creditor Information: The main content of the report in which you'll find details on each credit account that you've opened

Accounts

Your accounts fall into one of two main categories: accounts in good standing and possibly negative items. For instance, if you've paid any accounts late or had any accounts sent to collections, these will probably be in the "negative items" category.

If you have any negative items, look over each one carefully and make sure they're real. If you find any mistakes, you can dispute them. If there are several negative items and none are errors, you'll have to work on improving your credit.

Fixing Your Credit

The best way to fix poor credit—and to keep good credit—is to pay your debts on time and in full. In addition, keep open any accounts that are in good standing, and don't use any more of your credit than you absolutely have to. It will take time to fix your credit, but reviewing your credit reports is the key to starting.

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