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 If your address is outdated, that's okay.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.