How To Read A Credit Report

A credit report usually consists of five sections:  (1)  personal information; (2) public record information; (3) collection agency account information; (4) credit account information; and (5) inquiries.

All of the sections are easy to read and understand with the exception of two:  the credit account information section and the inquiry section.  This is because the credit bureaus use alphanumeric coding to classify and report type of account and payment history.  Once you understand the key, it is easy to read these sections of your credit file.

Credit Account Information

Beside each credit account in your file will be a letter designating your relationship to that account.  Below is the key indicating what these letters mean:

J = Joint
I  = Individual
U = Undesignated
A = Authorized User
T = Terminated
M = Maker
C = Co-maker or Co-signor
B = On behalf of another person
S = Shared

In addition to the above coding, you will also find alphanumeric coding used to record the type of account and your payment history. Below is the key indicating what these letters and numbers mean:

O = Open (entire balance due each month)
R = Revolving (amount due can change each month)
I  =  Installment (fixed amount due each month)

0 = Approved, but account is too new to rate or not yet used
1 = Paid as agreed
2 = 30 or more days past due
3 = 60 or more days past due
4 = 90 or more days past due
5 = 120 or more days past due or is a collection account
7 = Making regular payments under a wage earner plan or other arrangement
8 = Repossession
9 = Charged off account

Therefore, based on the above, you could quickly go down the relevant column in your credit file and the following alphanumeric combinations would be indications you have an excellent payment history:  O1, R1 or I1. Of course, you don't want to find anything that ends in 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8 or 9.
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Inquiry Section of Credit Report

Credit bureaus sometimes use coding in the inquiry section (section where those who have pulled your credit file are listed).  For example, Equifax uses the following abbreviations:

PRM = Your name and address were given to a credit grantor, but nothing else.  For example, a credit card company might offer you a "pre-approved" credit card based on this information.

AM or AR = One of your existing creditors has pulled your file to see if your financial situation has changed.   For example, a credit card company might pull your file every six months to offer you a credit line increase.

What if you find incorrect information on your credit report?

To have incorrect or outdated information corrected, contact the credit reporting agency (credit bureau) and dispute the incorrect item on your credit report and request a reinvestigation.  You can do this online at the three credit reporting agency websites:  Experian.com; Equifax.com and TransUnion.com.