Checking Your Credit Report

Checking your own credit report regularly is a good habit to develop as you build and maintain your overall financial health (and doesn’t impact your credit score). Reviewing your credit report can be a little overwhelming at first, but it doesn’t need to be. Just keep an eye out for three things: signs of identity theft, inaccurate information, and your score factors.

Checking Your Credit Report Doesn’t Impact Your Credit Score

A common misconception is that because inquiries can negatively impact your credit that checking your own credit report will hurt you. That is not true. There are two types of inquiries: hard inquiries and soft inquiries.

Hard inquiries are the types of inquiries that show up on your credit report and can damage your credit score. These occur when you provide a company permission to review your credit report before approving your loan, application, rental agreement, or other contract.

Soft inquiries occur when you give a company access to your credit report for a different purpose like employee background checks, or when you review your own credit report. These inquiries don’t show up on your credit report, and don’t impact your credit score.

Step 1: Check for Signs of Identity Theft

When reviewing your credit report, keep an eye out for signs of identity theft. The following issues may indicate identity theft:

  • Accounts that aren't yours
  • Inquiries you didn't authorize
  • Addresses you've never lived at

If you identify any of these issues on your credit report, you may be a victim of identity theft. To address these signs of identity theft, contact Fraud Resolution Services.

Step 2: Check for Inaccurate Information

The information on your credit report comes directly from the companies that provide credit to consumers. Sometimes, that information gets reported incorrectly. Examples of incorrect details include:

  • Open accounts reported as closed
  • Reports of late payments that never happened
  • Incorrect balances, credit limits, or other numbers

If you have found incorrect details on your credit report, you can dispute them with the credit bureaus. For information on how to dispute inaccurate information, visit the Credit Report Dispute Guide.

Step 3: Review Your Score Factors

After you’ve reviewed your credit report for signs of identity theft and inaccurate information, your next step is to focus on your score factors. Located with your credit score, your score factors detail the issues that are helping and hurting your score and risk level.

Examples of positive score factors include:

  • You have two or more open credit cards.
  • Your credit used is less than 16%.
  • You have never been more than 30 days late on a payment.

Examples of negative score factors include:

  • You have been more than 30 days late on at least one payment.
  • You have one or more legal records.
  • You have five or more inquiries.

By reviewing and understanding how the information in your credit report impacts your credit score, you’re better equipped to take the actions necessary to manage your score successfully in the future.

This article is provided for general guidance and information. It is not intended as, nor should it be construed to be, legal, financial or other professional advice. Please consult with your attorney or financial advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with credit decisions.

Published by permission from ConsumerInfo.com, Inc.  © 2013 ConsumerInfo.com, Inc.  All rights reserved.