How to Read a Credit Report

thinking woman with question mark

Most of us know it’s a good idea to check your credit report at least once a year.  That’s why so many people sign up for My Choice Checking; account holders who have direct deposit can opt to get a free detailed credit report every 90 days with IDProtect®.  The question most people have isn’t why should I check my credit report or how do I check my credit report, it’s how the heck do I read it?

Credit reports are arranged and formatted differently depending upon which credit bureau’s report you pull, but they all contain the same basic sections: personal information, accounts in good standing, negative accounts, and a record of the inquiries made on your credit.  With each, your goal is to make certain everything is accurate.  Simple, right?  Here’s a quick rundown on each section:

  • Personal Information
    • Updates to this section come from information you supply to lenders, so discrepancies here might point to you being the target of identity theft. In particular, make certain your current address and all previous addresses are correct.
  • Accounts in Good Standing
    • This section may be titled “open and closed accounts” or “satisfactory accounts.” Verify that your account limits are correct as this will affect your credit utilization ratio.
    • If you spot an account you don’t recognize, you may be the victim of identity theft.
    • Make certain there aren’t any accounts missing from the report too. If a good account is missing, your credit score may suffer from its absence.
    • Don’t be concerned if your balance information isn’t up to date. It only reflects the balances when they were last reported to the credit bureau.
  • Negative Accounts
    • Make certain anything that shows in this section is accurate. Did this account really go to collections?  Did you really miss that payment?  Immediately dispute anything that isn’t correct.
    • Look for anything that might be accurate but could still be fixed too. Did your health insurance deny a claim and the doctor’s office didn’t send you a bill?   Did you have your Netflix account set to autopay, but you didn’t realize your credit card on file had expired?  In cases like this, resolve the issue directly with the business and ask them to have it removed from your credit history.
  • Record of Inquiries
    • Hard inquiries negatively affect your credit score, so make certain you authorized each one listed.

If you’re one of the 25% of Americans who find a discrepancy on your credit report, dispute it immediately using the credit bureau’s online dispute process.  If you’re in the other 75%, set a reminder on your calendar to check your credit report again next year—or every 90 days if you’re an IDProtect® customer.

By Adam Lucas Adam Lucas holds a Finance degree and an MBA from the University of Kentucky. His work has appeared in many major outlets including Yahoo,, and

Monday on the Money is a weekly commentary from Bank of the Ozarks providing financial advice and solutions important to you and your family.