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How to Review Your Equifax Credit Report

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Equifax LogoIt’s very important that you regularly review your credit history to catch errors and inaccuracies early. Errors can take months to remedy and it’s not something you want to worry about when you are trying to get a mortgage or car loan. So, I recommend that every four months you request a credit report through AnnualCreditReport.com, the only website you should use to get your annual free credit report as mandated by the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

This week, I requested my credit report from Equifax and will take you briefly through the report to explain what the sections are and what to look out for. Each of the three bureaus structures their reports slightly differently, so I’m hoping this guide and walkthrough will help illuminated anything that looks strange.

As with every bureaus, Equifax gives you online access to your report for thirty days. During those thirty days, any changes will not appear on your history, your report is accurate as of the day you requested it. Let’s take a look at my Equifax report.

Reviewing your Equifax Credit Report

Here’s the first screen you’ll see:
Equifax Credit Report Overview
The overview page gives you a snapshot of your credit report and gives you an opportunity to catch any glaring problems. I would pay special attention to everything within the blue box at the bottom, as it’ll list a summary of all your accounts. See too few or too many listed? It’ll give you an early indication of where you may run into problems.

I can see that my oldest account as from 10/1998, which was a mere two months after I started college. My most recent account was a Capital One card I opened last September because we were going to London, England and I wanted to avoid foreign transaction fees. My most recent inquiry was also last year when I opened an ING Direct Electric Orange account – everything looks good there.

To view your full report, you simply click “View Full Report.” (I drew a green box around the button). Also, if you want to view your entire credit history on one page, circumventing their navigation, click Print This Report (I drew a yellow box around it).

Equifax Report Sections

Here’s what you’ll see when you view your full report (click to enlarge image):
Equifax Credit Report Overview

From there the report is broken up into the usual sections (the navigation is to the left, with the five important sections in the red box):

  • Credit Summary: Which repeats what was seen on the Overview page.
  • Accounts: This will list your various credit accounts, in one of four categories (Mortgage, installment, revolving, and “other” accounts.) In each category, accounts will be listed in open and closed account tables. Mortgage and installment accounts will usually be your loans, revolving accounts will usually be your credit cards, and the “other” will have everything else.
  • Inquiries: This will list all the requests for your credit history and are separated into two lists. The first are “Inquiries that may impact your credit rating,” known as hard inquiries. The second are “Inquiries that do not impact your credit rating,” known as soft inquiries.
  • When you look at this section, note the prefix to the inquiries because they show what type of inquiry it was. I had a few AM/AR, which indicate a “periodic review of my credit history by one of my creditors, and a bunch of ND, which are general inquiries not displayed to credit grantors. One category listed that may surprise you is EMPL, which is an employment inquiry.

  • Negative Information: This section has three categories: negative accounts, collections, and public records. Negative account lists any accounts that have a negative status, which include accounts that were not paid as agreed or are past due. Collections list any account you have that’s been turned over to collections. Public records refer to bankruptcies, liens, or judgments from government public records.
  • Personal Information: It’s important to review your personal information and keep it accurate because your personal information is often used to confirm your identity when you apply to various accounts. It’s also good to keep accurate because if you see a new account opened by someone in another state with your information, you could use your personal information as a means of explaining how it isn’t your account.

I didn’t take individual screenshots of the other pages because they are exactly as I described in the above list.

NOTE: You will not get a credit score as part of your credit report, that’s because the credit score isn’t a requirement in the FCRA. If you want your score, I’ve collected a list of resources where you can get your free FICO credit score or you can simply use a credit score estimate.

Saving Your Report

It’s important that you keep a copy of your report but printing it out is not necessary (and a waste of paper). On any of the report pages, look for the “Print Report” link at the top right. Click this and you open a window that contains your entire report. Right click and select “Save as…” to save your report. I save the filename as [Credit Bureau Name] – [My Name] – [Month/Year Requested]. So this latest report is saved as “Equifax – Jim Wang – 5-2009.htm.” Then I put the HTML file and the directory (which contains images) in my financial archives. Please save the file instead of printing it out because chances are you will never review it within the next twelve months and by then you can get another one for free.

Disputing Equifax Errors

It’s important to dispute any errors you find in your report. They could be signs of a bigger problem. For example, several years ago I reviewed my TransUnion report and saw that they listed an additional social security number and address. In fixing that problem, I also discovered there was an outstanding telephone bill, associated with the erroneous address. Even if you don’t think it’ll affect your score, you should still strive to get your report as accurate as possible.

Here are the errors you can dispute online: If it’s an error in your name or date of birth, you’ll need to send them a copy of your Driver’s License. If there’s an error in your current address, you’ll need to send a copy of a driver’s license or utility bill. If the Social Security number is wrong, you’ll need to send a copy of your Social Security card or a W-2 form.

Otherwise, you can dispute inaccuracies in writing to:
Equifax Information Services, LLC
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374

Or by calling their dispute center 866-224-9235.

If you find an error, it’s important that you review your other reports to see if they have that error as well.

It’s important to check your reports regularly (I stagger them every four months) to make sure they have accurate information. To learn more about how credit reports affect your FICO credit score, I invite you to read the Foundation article on FICO credit scores.

I’m glad to announce that this post was selected as one of the best in the inaugural Best of Money Carnival!

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11 Responses to “How to Review Your Equifax Credit Report”

  1. It’s always good to check your credit score at least semi-regularly. I found a ding against my credit from over a year prior. It was a medical bill and they had the wrong address for me. I eventually paid the bill and got it removed from my credit score, but I likely wouldn’t have caught it until buying a house or the like. And that would have been frustrating.

  2. labelcd6 says:

    This is an excellent post.

    I have a question, however. Dave Ramsey calls a credit score an “I Love Debt” score. Without turning this into a pro/con Dave Ramsey debate, how does everyone feel about that statement?

    How should we feel about credit scores, which go up when we borrow and pay back lots of money?

    I’m aware of several financial benefits from having a high credit score (and I do have a good credit score from paid off students loans and such); however, how should we feel about living in a society that gives us financial incentives to borrow money?

    In fact, with interest being tax-deductible (at least I think it is), with credit cards seeming to be “necessary” to function in middle-class society, and with the collapse and panic surrounding the drying up of “easy credit,” what does that say about our society? What does that say about us?

    • Jim says:

      You don’t have to borrow money to get a good credit score, your credit card reports your balance at the time your statement closes. If you were to charge $200 to your card each month and pay it off in its entirety, it would look as though you were carrying a balance of $200 but you didn’t carry anything.

      Interest on consumer loans is not tax deductible, it is on student loans and mortgages. Credit is only necessary because everyone else uses credit. If there were no loans and you had to pay for cash, then prices for everything would fall. People can afford to buy $300,000 homes because they can get a loan. Part of the reason why home values are depressed right now is because of lending, a lot of people can’t get loans for the homes they want so the demand is falling.

      I don’t think it says anything about our society.

    • Cap says:

      I call credit score an “I love saving thousands of dollars on interest for my home loan score.”

      Considering it as a society that gives us financial incentives to ‘borrow’ money puts you in a certain predisposition if you just end the thought there.

      Why not think: You’re living in a financial society that gives you financial incentive to BORROW — and then REPAY the money promptly?

      I consider myself living in a society where you get highly rewarded by knowing how to properly manage your cash flow and knowing how to properly manage your credit. Maybe that’s putting a pretty spin on consumer credit, but consider other definitions of credit beyond finance: source of honor; something that gains or adds to reputation or esteem; recognition by name of a person contributing to a performance; recognition by institution that a person has fulfilled a requirement; reliance on the truth or reality of something; influence or power derived from enjoying the confidence of another or others.

      They’ve use the word credit to describe this financial instrument for a reason — most people just seem to have missed that completely.

  3. eric says:

    I spread my credit reports out, taking one every 4 months. On Macs, there’s a native print to PDF option so I do that and save them on my computer also.

  4. Ron says:

    In my haste to open an online high yield savings account, I applied for an account with West Bank and they did a Hard Inquiry. They told me they would do a credit check for identity purposes so I didn’t think it was a big deal. My question is why would they do a Hard Inquiry when the main purpose of having the account is to save money not borrow.

    • Jim says:

      That seems very strange, usually banks will only do a hard inquiry for a checking account for the purposes of offering you overdraft protection (ING Direct did that when I opened their checking account). Thanks for the warning though, people should be made aware of that. “Identity purposes” are almost always soft pulls because they simply ask for personal information, not lending information.

  5. Mike Leone says:

    What about out of date employment info? I recently checked my TransUnion report, and the “Employment Reported” section was from 14 years ago. :-) While it apparently doesn’t affect my score, should I report my current employment situation to the 3 agencies? Just to make sure everything is up to date.

    • Jim says:

      Your employment info won’t affect you score, but employers are always curious about discrepencies between what you say and what is reported about you. I would do it just to keep it current but I wouldn’t consider it pressing.

  6. dewey phillips says:

    these credit co should be made to find out more true facts before they go shooting nos around ihave paid shell oil co each month never been late . they canceled my c c they said that i was no longer credit worthy there should be lawthat wont let them charge a high intrest rate. just because you have a lower ctedit score

  7. Donald L Schlack says:

    I want to thank you for the information on saving an Equifax report. I tried to copy and paste, but found the report too big. Why don’t the Credit Report companies make it easy to copy.
    I found your site, just by doing a search and I think I may stick around and do some more research. Thanks again!


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