Reading Your Annual Credit Report: Account History

A credit report sitting on top of a laptop next to a pair of glasses with a score of 765 and report summary detailing the account history

Have questions about your credit report? Review your free credit reports with a certified credit counselor! Knowing how to read your credit report is an important factor in taking control of your finances. The first step is to request your free credit report file, and to make it easier for you, we have created a step-by-step tutorial on how to obtain your free annual credit report.

Key Components of Account Credit History

Understanding the Importance of a Good Credit History

Let’s begin with the account history section, which may not be the first thing you’ll see when you open your free credit report, but it is the most important. It’s usually the largest section of the credit report. When calculating your credit score, FICO gives more weight to your payment history than any other category; it’s responsible for 35% of your credit score.

Navigate to the Account History Section

When looking at your credit report’s account history section, you’ll see a summary of each of your credit reports, including accounts that have been closed. Accounts are usually divided into five categories—Real Estate, Revolving, Installment, Other, and Collection. They may be separated into different sections depending on whether they have a negative or a positive impact on your credit file, whether the accounts are in collection, or other factors.  

Detailed Breakdown of Account Information

Key Information in Account History

For each account, you’ll find the following information:

  • Name of Creditor: The abbreviated name of the person or agency that gave you the credit account, such as a bank, credit card company, or mortgage lender.
  • Address of Creditor: The official address of the creditor to send correspondence to.
  • Original Creditor: This section will only appear if the account is in collections.
  • Account Number: An identifying number for your account. Typically, this would be a credit card number for a credit card account, or a loan identification number for a mortgage.
  • Type: The type of account, such as Real Estate, Revolving, Installment, Other, and Collection.
  • Status: Shows the state of the account, such as open, paid, closed, past due, etc.
  • Responsibility: The role that you play in the account. For example, “Individual” or “Joint.”
  • Date Opened: The date when the account was opened.
  • Date Reported: The last date when any activity in this account was shown. Activities include payments, credit card billings, etc.
  • Credit Balance and Limit: The amount you presently owe on the account (based on the last reported activity) compared to the maximum amount of credit approved.
  • High Balance: The most you have ever owed on this account.
  • Recent Balance: The most recent balance as reported to the credit agencies.
  • Payment and Terms: The amount and number of monthly payments scheduled.
  • Past Due: The amount of payment overdue as of the most recent reported activity.
  • Remarks: If there are any remarks by you or your creditor included in the account information, these remarks will appear here.
  • Account History: Your account history shows how many late payments you’ve had, how late they were (30, 60, 90+ days), and what your balances have been from month to month.

Identifying Each Account

Reviewing these details helps you verify the accuracy of your credit report. It’s vital to make sure that all information, including account types, balances, and payment histories, are correct. Inaccurate information can negatively impact your credit history.

Credit Report image that allows clients to understand their credit score, credit history, identity theft, missed payments, or wrong information

Understanding and Analyzing Payment History

Reviewing Payment and Terms

Analyzing your payment history is key to understanding your financial habits. Late payments and their frequency can significantly affect your credit reports. This section should be checked thoroughly to identify any patterns of late payments and their impact on your credit reports.

Tackling Negative Information

Addressing any negative information in your payment history is critical. This might include late payments or high balances. Developing a plan to rectify these issues is essential for improving your credit score and overall credit reports. If you spot errors, promptly contact the credit bureaus to dispute them to fix mistakes.

Additional Considerations For Credit Scores and Credit Reports

Spotting Inconsistencies and Discrepancies

It's not uncommon to find discrepancies in your free credit reports. Identifying and rectifying these discrepancies is crucial for maintaining a healthy credit score. Regular review of your credit report can help catch these errors early and improve your credit score.

Strategies for Improving Credit Scores

Understanding your credit report is the first step in improving your financial situation. If anything in your credit report sections appears to be incorrect, you can write a letter to the credit bureaus requesting they correct any errors. See our free Consumer Guide to Good Credit for complete instructions on disputing out-of-date or inaccurate items on your credit report.

Conclusion: Navigating Credit Report Complexity

Reading and understanding your annual credit report, particularly the account history section, is key to managing your credit file and financial health. It highlights both the strengths and weaknesses of your credit history, offering insights into your financial behavior and its impact on your credit score. Check your credit score, carefully, identify wrong information, and tackle negative items, so you can enhance your financial health and creditworthiness. Remember, an accurate and well-managed credit report is your gateway to new credit, better interest rates, how many loans you qualify for, and stability.

Note: The visual format of your credit report file will differ depending on the credit reporting bureau that you ask for your report from. To make it easier to understand the differences, you may visit the following credit agencies: Equifax, Experian, and Transunion.

Article written by
Melinda Opperman
Melinda Opperman is an exceptional educator who lives and breathes the creation and implementation of innovative ways to motivate and educate community members and students about financial literacy. Melinda joined in 2003 and has over two decades of experience in the industry.

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