With all the credit reporting and scoring advice circulating the internet, sometimes it’s refreshing — and helpful — to just get down to the very basics. Namely: what exactly is in your credit report, and what isn’t?
Credit reports are generally broken down into five to seven areas, depending on what credit report you’re looking at and whether it’s a “consumer” version or a “users” version. Here’s are the sections and what you’re likely to find in each:
Personal Identification Data
This is where you’re going to find your name, any variations of your name, current and former addresses, date of birth, social security number, and perhaps your current or previous employer.
This is a list of who pulled your credit reports and on what date. The “consumer” version of the credit report is going to have all of your inquiries. The “user” version is only going to have hard inquires. I wrote about inquiries here if you want to take a refresher course on the subject.
There is a separate section on a credit report for 3rd party collections. This is not the internal collection department at your bank or credit card issuer. This is when your creditors have either sold or consigned your delinquent debts to an outside company for collection efforts.
The trade section is going to make up the bulk of your credit report. This is where all of your accounts with lenders are going to show up. Some times they’re called “trade lines” as well.
On some old credit report formats the Public Records’ section also houses 3rd party collections despite the fact that a collection is hardly a public record. In the newer consumer versions they are called out as their own unique item leaving the public record section to only house liens, judgments and bankruptcies.
You might not know this but you have the right to add a short statement to your credit reports. In most states this is limited to no more than 100 words so you’ll need to bust out your best Twitter or text messaging skills to fit an explanation of why you stopped paying on your credit cards.
So now that we know what you WILL see on your credit reports, let’s address what you probably won’t see on your credit reports.
Under most circumstances you won’t see…
These were reported at one time but only when they went delinquent. Do you remember when gyms would sign people up for 3-5 year contracts and if you decided you were buff enough and cancelled they’d try and hit you up for the full amount?
You won’t normally see your gas, power, cable, or telephone service account on your credit reports while they’re in good standing. There are some exceptions. I’ve seen NICOR accounts on credit reports reporting month after month just like any other loan. NICOR is a gas provider in Illinois. Most of the time if you see these types of accounts on a credit report it’s because they’ve been sent to collections and the collector is reporting it.
You’ll rarely, if ever, see your rental payments on your credit report because most landlords don’t have accounts with the credit reporting agencies and they are unable to report. Even if you are living in an apartment complex with hundreds or thousands of units it’s unlikely you’ll ever see the payments on your credit reports. Of course if you default on your lease they’ll turn it over to a collection agency and you’ll see that on your credit reports lickety split.
Almost all insurance companies will allow you to pay your insurance premium in installments. I’m quite certain most people would consider that a form of extending credit, and I’d agree with them. However, insurance companies do not report the installment payments to the credit reporting agencies. If you don’t pay them they’ll just cancel your coverage. And of course driving without insurance is illegal. Talk about the ultimate leverage over their borrowers!
John Ulzheimer is the President of Consumer Education at SmartCredit.com, the credit blogger for Mint.com, and the author of the “credit history” definition on Wikipedia. He is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft. Formerly of FICO, Equifax and Credit.com, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry. He has served as a credit expert witness in more than 70 cases and has been qualified to testify in both Federal and State court on the topic of consumer credit.