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Understanding Credit Reports: A Comprehensive Guide for Credit Repair

By: Daniel Rosen Last updated: April 1, 2024

Understanding your credit report can be a REALLY overwhelming task.

Knowing what goes into your credit report and how creditors use this information can leave you feeling hoodwinked.

But don’t worry, I’ve spent the last twenty years learning about this stuff so you don’t have to. And in this post you’ll learn everything you need to know, including who can see your credit report and what to do if you find an error. 

In this article I’ll cover:

  • What is a credit report
  • How credit reports work

  • What information is in a credit report

  • Accessing and reviewing your credit report

By the end you’ll understand everything you need to know about credit reports, to help you on your credit repair journey.

What is a Credit Report?

A credit report is a detailed history of how you’ve managed and repaid any debt you have in your name.

Essentially, it’s a snapshot of your financial health.

The reason a credit report is so important is that it gives potential lenders a view of how you’ve paid any credit in your name, so they can calculate the likelihood of you paying back any money they lend you. 

Credit reports are also used to calculate your credit score. It looks at all the information on the report to make an informed prediction of your ability to pay back credit.

If your credit report shows things like missed payments, frequent credit applications, poor credit utilization, etc, this can lead to a poor credit score.

This is all well and good, assuming your credit report is accurate. But did you know that 1 in 5 credit reports have errors? This is why it’s really important to check that your credit report is correct and error free.

More on that later…

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How Credit Reports Work

There are three main credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Each of them collect information about your credit history from lenders and other service providers.

These credit bureaus log current and past debt within the previous 10 years, focussing on late payments, missed payments, and any debt that has been passed onto a third party collections agency. 

This includes any foreclosures on property, bankruptcy and vehicle repossessions.
All of this information is used to determine “creditworthiness”, which is defined by the Merriam Webster Dictionary like this:

| financially sound enough to justify the extension of credit

This is a term used by credit agencies and lenders. To be creditworthy, a lender will use your credit report to find evidence that you can cover any loan payments with your income, while also seeking proof that you manage debt responsibly.

Not all types of debt are treated equally, though. This is especially true when it comes to how long something stays on your credit report:

  • Personal information: Your name, address, and date of birth remain indefinitely.

  • Bankruptcies: Depending on the type of bankruptcy, it can stay on your report for 7 to 10 years.

  • Most negative information: This includes late payments, accounts in collections, charge-offs, and foreclosures. These typically stay on your credit report for 7 years from the date of the original delinquency or charge-off.

  • Positive information: Accounts you've paid in full and closed in good standing can stay on your report for up to 10 years, although some may disappear sooner.

  • Soft inquiries: Like those made when you check your own credit report, don't affect your score and fall off after two years.

  • Hard inquiries: Made when lenders pull your report for loan applications, these stay on for two years but only impact your score for the first year.

What Information Is in Credit Reports?

Credit reports cover a wide range of information and each credit bureau may also have different information about you. But there are a number of things that are pretty consistent across all three credit reports:

Personal information

This includes your name, including aliases or alternate that’s been reported. It also includes date of birth, current and previous addresses, social security number, current and previous employers and your phone number.

If you have ever had or been a guarantor, cosigner, or held a joint account with a friend or spouse then their name will also be included.

Risk factors

This information lists why you may have been rejected for credit and loans, or even why you may have been offered a higher interest rate than expected.

Essentially, this is a log of any red flags against your name. And if you ever get turned down for credit, this section usually gives you a clue why.


This is a list of credit accounts and installment loans that have been taken out in your name (current and historic). This will include the creditors name, payment history, balances, account numbers and account status. 

Recent Inquiries

This section lists anyone who has recently requested to view your credit report and what date. Even though your credit score won’t take into account soft searches, this section will include both soft and hard inquiries.


This section lists any debts that have gone unpaid and been sent to collections. This will include the name of the creditor, the amount of debt, and the history of the collection. 

Public records

Since the laws were changed around public records, the only public records allowed to appear on a credit report are bankruptcy documents. 

Consumer statement

This is an optional statement you can add to your credit report to explain any discrepancies you may have, including negative information on accounts.

Creditor contracts

This section simply lists contact information of any creditor that has provided information about you to the bureaus.

Inconsistencies and Errors in Credit Reports

According to a survey in 2021 of nearly 6,000 volunteers by Consumer Reports, 34% of participants noted at least one error on their credit report.

These are bad odds, especially when these errors can cause major issues for you and your credit health.

If you identify errors on your credit report, you should take action immediately!

The first step is to contact the credit bureau whose credit report has the error. You can do this from the three main bureaus websites.

Information you will want to include when disputing errors are:

  • Contact information, including your name, address and telephone number.
  • A clear explanation of each error you’re disputing including account numbers if required.
  • A screenshot or copy of the section of your credit report that contains the error and copies of documents that support your argument.
  • Your credit report number (if available).

Secondly, you will want to dispute any errors on your account with the company that provided this information to the credit bureaus.

You can get our free dispute letter templates here, or sign up for a Credit Repair Cloud account to access our full template library. 

Accessing and Reviewing Credit Reports with Credit Repair Cloud

Traditionally, if you want to see what’s on your credit report you’d have to pay for an account with the bureau, download your report, and manually sift through all the information.

And if you want to check your report with all three bureaus (which you do), this means you have to pay three times, download three times, and manually analyze three different credit reports.

This is A LOT of work.

Wouldn’t it be easier if there was a tool that did all this for you?

I thought so, which is exactly why I built Credit Repair Cloud. We’ve automated this whole process, making it quick and easy to import and analyze credit reports for you or your clients.

This is done via our ‘Import and audit’ function, and all it takes is three clicks:

1. Click the ‘Import/Audit’ button
2. Select the credit report provider (Experian, TransUnion, Equifax, etc)
3. Hit ‘Import & Run Simple Audit’

That’s all it takes!

From there it automatically connects to the bureaus, analyzes all the data on the report, and carries out an audit on the imported credit reports.

This audit identifies all the areas that can be improved. Then you can go through the audit to decide where there are errors, where you can dispute, etc.

It’s a whole lot easier than doing it manually, and far more helpful.

Frequently Asked Questions About Credit Reports

Who uses credit reports and why

Lenders, landlords, and some employers use credit reports to assess your financial responsibility. They check your borrowing history to predict your future payment behavior and make informed decisions about loans, rentals, or job offers.

What information is on your credit report

Credit report reveals your borrowing history: accounts, payments, debts, public records. Like a financial snapshot, it paints a picture of your past credit behavior for lenders, landlords, and sometimes employers.

What are the 3 main credit bureaus?

The three credit bureau giants in the US are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

How Long Does Information Remain on Your Credit Report?

Most negative marks vanish after 7 years, like late payments or collections. Bankruptcies linger 7-10 years, and good accounts can stick around up to 10 years, boosting your score even after closing.

Who Can See Your Credit Report?

Lenders, landlords, and sometimes employers can peek at your credit report with your permission or a valid reason like loan applications, rental checks, or certain job types. The general public stays out, though, keeping your financial info safe.

What you should do now?



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