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Reviewing your credit report: What you need to know

Personal finance • September 17, 2019 • Jen Ryan


Haven’t seen your credit report before? Here’s what you need to look for—and why it matters.

What you’ll learn

  • Why your credit report is important
  • What's included in your credit report


If you haven't seen your credit report before, you're not alone. But, you should make reviewing and understanding it a priority because the information included in your report is used to calculate your credit score.

Three major credit bureaus produce credit reports and you can request a free copy each year from AnnualCreditReport.com. Each credit bureau's version of the report may look different, but it will contain the same information.

  1. Personal information

    Here you'll find your name, address, phone number, birth date, Social Security number, and employment history. Although personal information doesn't affect your credit score, it’s important that your report lists correct information. If your address is outdated, that's okay. But if you've always lived in Indiana and your report says you've got a place in Kentucky, this is considered an error on your report and it could even be a sign of suspicious activity.

  2. Account information

    Your credit history appears in this section, including opened and closed credit accounts, credit limits, and payment history. Check to make sure any student loans, auto loans, mortgages, and credit cards you have are listed correctly.

  3. Payment history

    This part shows whether or not you've paid your bills on time. Depending on the credit bureau, accounts that you pay regularly and accounts with missed payments may be separated out into different buckets.

  4. Public record information

    This section rounds up any publicly available reports you have, including delinquent accounts, liens, bankruptcies, or lawsuits. A public record can remain on your credit report for years, depending on the type of account.

  5. Credit inquiries

    Have you applied for a credit card, a car loan, or any other credit-based product recently? Expect to see these listed as part of the report. Most inquiries will stay on your report for up to two years.

    Be sure to read through your report carefully and review it each year to make sure there are no mistakes. If you see anything that looks fishy, flag it. Errors can impact your credit score as well as your ability to get a loan, lease a car, or buy a home.


Jen Ryan is a senior copywriter at Sallie Mae. When she’s not helping make college happen, you can find her reading, running, or exploring Boston with her husband.


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Sallie Mae does not provide financial, tax, or legal advice and the information contained in this article does not constitute tax, legal, or financial advice. Sallie Mae does not make any claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained in this article. Readers should consult their own attorneys or other tax advisors regarding any financial strategies mentioned in this article. These materials are for informational purposes only and do not necessarily reflect the views or endorsement of Sallie Mae.