Whether applying for a mortgage or securing that dream car, it's critical to know your credit score to stay on top of your finances. But when you get that consumer credit report in your hands, how do you decipher all of the charts and graphs in a way that you can actually use? In this guide, we'll explain how to read a credit report and how to interpret your results. This knowledge can help you correct any errors you encounter and build your credit for the future. Let's get started!
What is a Credit Report?
A credit report is a summary of your debt payment history over time, including everything from loans to credit card debt. This document is most commonly used by potential lenders as a way to assess your financial standing, so they can determine whether or not you are a strong candidate for assistance. When you apply for a credit card or a mortgage, your overall credit score can determine the success or failure of your application package. Your credit report can also influence your interest rate, as candidates with higher credit scores tend to get the better deals.
Why Should I Check my Credit Report?
Checking your credit report may seem intimidating, but it's actually a very important task. When you check your credit score annually, you can spot errors and dispute them before they affect your credit score. This includes issues ranging from fraudulent charges to identity theft. Plus, you can get a better sense of your finances in the present. If that credit card debt or loan is crashing your credit score, it's better to know as soon as possible. The faster you can resolve these issues, the better your financial future will be.
What Does a Credit Report Contain?
While different companies will present different versions of your credit report, the same basic sections are included on all reports:
- Personal information: name, social security number, spouse, employment, etc.
- Credit history: information about your various investments
- Credit inquiries: names and frequencies of those who check your credit score
- Public records: bankruptcy filings, tax issues, collections information
- Consumer statements: personal statements explaining financial circumstances
What Should I Look For?
If you're feeling overwhelmed by all the information in your credit report, there's no need to panic. Keep your eyes peeled for red flags in your file, like:
- Missed payments
- Closed accounts
- Collection accounts
- Negative public records
These factors can negatively affect your credit score in the present, so it's important to be aware of them and make a plan to move forward. However, keep in mind that most of these factors eventually expire. So even if you have less than perfect credit at the moment, you can still build your score for the future. If you have trouble keeping up with your monthly debt, go through your budget and try to find areas to cut down. If you need to resolve debt more quickly, consider options like title loans to get back into good standing. You'll get back on your feet in no time!