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Chapter 2: What is in Your Credit Report

Though credit reports can look different depending on where and how you access them, they all contain the same categories of information:

  • Identification – Most credit reports begin with personal data, including your name, current and former addresses, employer, spouse’s name (if applicable), date of birth, and Social Security number.

  • Trade lines – The bulk of your credit report provides detailed information about your credit history. The data it lists on each account typically includes:
    • The name of the creditor and partial account number.
    • Account status (open, closed, or charged off).
    • The current balance.
    • Your payment history. If you have made payments late, the number of days you are or were past due will be indicated.
    • The date the creditor last reported to the credit bureau.
    • The date you opened the account.
    • The type of credit, such as revolving (e.g. credit card), installment (e.g. car loan), or collection account.
    • The repayment length and monthly payment (for installment debt).
    • The original amount borrowed (for installment debt) and credit limit and highest balance ever held (for revolving debt).
    • Who is responsible for paying the account. It can be individual (only you), joint (you and someone else), or authorized user (you can use the account but are not responsible for making payments).

  • Public records – This section shows public records that are related to credit worthiness, like liens, bankruptcies, evictions, repossessions, judgments, foreclosures, and court-ordered child support arrears.
  • Inquiries – This section lists anyone who has accessed your credit report. Inquiries can either be “hard” or “soft”. A hard inquiry is an inquiry that results from an application or transaction initiated by you, such as applying for a new credit card. A soft inquiry occurs when you pull your credit report or your credit report is checked for pre-approval offers. The only person who can see the soft inquiries on your credit report is you.

 

How Long Can Information Be Reported?
Credit reports may reflect late payments, collection accounts, repossessions, and most other negative information for seven years. For an account sent to a collection agency, the period starts 180 days after you missed your first payment with the original creditor. (A collection agency selling the debt to another collection agency does not extend the amount of time it can stay on your credit report.) A Chapter 7 bankruptcy will remain on your credit report for ten years from the date of filing. While a Chapter 13 bankruptcy can technically stay on your credit report for ten years, it is customary for the bureaus to only report completed Chapter 13s for 7 years from the filing date. Paid judgments can stay on your credit report for 7 years, but unpaid ones can stay until the statute of limitations for collection (which varies from state to state) expires. Most inquiries can stay on your credit report for two years.

These timelines do not apply to positive information. Accounts that are consistently paid on time may be reported indefinitely as long as they are open. However, closed, paid-off accounts typically will only remain on your credit report for up to ten years.
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