OnPath Credit Union

How to Read Your Credit Report: Navigating the Numbers and Notations


A credit report extends beyond mere digits to offer a panoramic view of your financial history. If you’re worried about your credit score, want to make sure the credit bureaus aren’t basing your score on errors or faulty data or you’re just curious to see what’s on your credit report, you should make use of one or more of your free annual credit reports.

Receiving your credit report is most useful when you understand how to decode its content. The good news is most of the report is straightforward.

It may be useful to log into your bank’s website so you can verify the accounts and information shown on your credit report are accurate while you’re reviewing it. Doing so will help you quickly identify inaccuracies that should be corrected.

Personal Information

Begin with a meticulous review of your personal details, ensuring accuracy in the following:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Social Security Number
  • Employment Information

Erroneous entries or unfamiliar variations can signal errors or identity theft and should be promptly addressed with the credit bureau.

Credit Summary

The credit summary should show you all your credit accounts, debts or credit pulls. This may include:

  • Total Number of Open and Closed Accounts
  • Active Debts
  • Credit Inquiries
  • Public Records

Being able to cross reference the credit summary with your active accounts and your recent behavior is one of the key benefits of requesting the credit report. Take the time to verify the validity of the listed accounts, identifying any discrepancies or unfamiliar entries. Investigate further if you believe reported credit inquiries are inaccurate, as it may show attempts at identify theft.

Account Information

Delve deeper into each account listed, scrutinizing the following:

  • Lender Name: Check to make sure the lender listed is the lender from whom you borrowed. If you have a mortgage, this could change if your home loan is sold or transferred to another loan servicer.
  • Account Type: Confirm the nature of credit (e.g., credit card, mortgage).
  • Account Status: Ensure correct representation of account status (e.g., open, closed, defaulted).
  • Balance: Confirm the accuracy of current balances.
  • Payment History: Ensure correct logging of your payment history.

Dispute any inaccuracies directly with the credit bureau as soon as possible. Correcting inaccuracies that are bringing down your credit scores is one of the fastest ways to repair poor credit.

Inquiry Section

Take note of who has accessed your credit report, distinguishing between:

  • Hard Inquiries: These are triggered by your actions, such as auto loan or mortgage applications, and can impact your score.
  • Soft Inquiries: These inquiries may be due to either checks by lenders or yourself. Although soft inquiries show up on the report, they do not negatively affect your credit score.

Frequent hard inquiries within a short span can be a red flag for lenders and should be minimized.

Public Records

Examine any public records, which could encompass:

  • Bankruptcies
  • Tax Liens
  • Civil Judgments

Ensure these entries are accurate and verify the dates, as outdated items (generally, those over seven years old) should be removed.

Creditor Contacts

This section provides contact details for all listed creditors. Use this information for:

  • Verification: Ensure each listed creditor is familiar and accurate.
  • Disputes: Use provided contacts to dispute any discrepancies directly with creditors.

Personal Statement

Though the personal statement will not influence your score, it does allow you to annotate any pertinent information for future creditors.

Take Action to Correct Inaccuracies

Understanding your credit report positions you to strategically enhance your creditworthiness, rectify inaccuracies and safeguard against potential identity theft. If you believe anything on the report was incorrect or should be removed, you should:

  • Dispute Inaccuracies: Engage with credit bureaus and creditors to dispute and rectify any inaccuracies.
  • Address Negative Items: Develop strategies, potentially with a financial advisor, to manage and mitigate negative items.

What Can You Do About a Disheartening Credit Report?

Your credit report tells a story seen by lenders, employers, landlords, insurance companies and other entities who are attempting to gauge your reliability as a borrower, tenant or worker.  

Although it can feel unfair, the credit report will inevitably influence your opportunities and financial pathways. Ensuring its accuracy, understanding its components and strategically managing its contents will position you to make positive changes moving forward.

Your credit report is your financial story – ensure it tells it accurately. Call OnPath Federal Credit Union at 800.749.6193 to learn how our products and member services can help you improve your financial health.