Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, every consumer is entitled to one free credit report every 12 months from each of the three major credit bureaus -- Transunion, Equifax and Experian. According to Transunion, one-third of Americans have never checked their credit reports. By knowing what each section of your credit report entails and also understanding the credit classifications used, you can review your credit report with confidence that you understand where you stand.
Under the personal information section of your credit reports, you'll see your full name and any other names that businesses or other entities may have used in association with you or your Social Security number. You'll also find your Social Security number, date of birth and address. Past addresses and telephone numbers are listed here. You may even see the names and addresses of your past or present employers in this section.
In the inquiries section, you'll see anyone who has checked your credit report in an effort to evaluate your creditworthiness. According to the My Fico website, your report contains inquiries from the past two years. If you apply for a home or automobile loan, for instance, the name of the bank or lender will be in this part of your credit report.
Credit Accounts and Classifications
Credit accounts may also be called trade lines or credit items on your credit report. These are the past or current lines of credit you have opened with any lenders. Credit cards, automobile loans and mortgages are in this section. These accounts may further be classified as installment accounts or revolving accounts. Installment credit accounts, such as loans, are credit accounts in which the lender pays you one sum of money and you repay that amount in installments. Revolving accounts, such as credit cards, allow you to have a maximum credit limit that you may borrow from as long as you repay the lender. With a revolving account, money flows back and forth from you and the lender. Credit accounts are also classified as secured or unsecured. Home mortgages, for instance, are secured credit accounts, because the creditor can use your home as collateral to get its money back if you do not repay the loan. An unsecured credit account does not involve any sort of collateral.
Potentially Negative Items
Your unpaid credit accounts are listed in a section on negative items. If you filed for bankruptcy, the type of bankruptcy and details of the filing may be listed here. If you have any other public records, such as judgments, liens, lawsuits or wage attachments, you may see those items under this section as potentially negative items.
Any accounts that creditors have forwarded to collection agencies will go under the collection accounts section. Although all items on a credit report provide detailed information about each account, including the account number, payment history and information about the creditor, collection accounts contain additional information. With collection accounts, you'll see the collections history, including the date the account was forwarded to the collection agency and the amount of money that is past due. Collection accounts include information about the collection agency, including the business's name, address and phone number.
- Experian: Glossary of Credit Terms
- Experian: Sample Credit Report
- My Fico: What's in My Credit Report?
- Federal Trade Commission: Free Credit Reports
- Transunion: One Third of Americans Have Never Checked Their Credit Report, Reveals TransUnion Study
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "How Long Does Negative Information Remain on My Credit Report?" Accessed June 24, 2020.
- Georgia Department of Law, Consumer Protection Division. "Credit Reports and Credit Score." Accessed June 24, 2020.
- TransUnion. "How Long Do Closed Accounts Stay on My Credit Report?" Accessed June 24, 2020.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "I Filed for Bankruptcy. How Long Will That Appear on Credit Reports?" Accessed June 24, 2020.
E.M. Rawes is a professional writer specializing in business, finance, mathematical and social sciences topics. She completed her studies at the University of Maryland, where she earned her Bachelor of Science. During her time working in workforce management and as a financial analyst, she reinforced her business and financial know-how.