Understanding Your Equifax Credit Report and Credit History
Reading time: 3 minutes
- Learn what information is on your Equifax credit report
- Hard inquiries on credit reports can impact credit scores
- What to consider before shopping around for a loan
School report cards contain numbers or letters summarizing and evaluating students’ performance. As they get older, these report cards may be used to help determine students’ eligibility and acceptance into colleges or other programs.
Your relationship with your Equifax credit report isn’t much different. It contains information summarizing how you have handled credit accounts, including the types of accounts and your payment history.
Simply stated, your Equifax credit report is made up of:
Personal information such as your full name, address, and Social Security number.
Credit account information as reported to Equifax by your lenders and creditors. This information includes the types of accounts, the date those accounts were opened, your credit limit or loan amount, current balances on the accounts and payment history.
Inquiry information. There are two types of inquiries: “hard” and “soft.” Read more about inquiries below.
Bankruptcies and related details about them, such as the filing date and chapter (type of bankruptcy).
Collections accounts. This includes past-due accounts that have been turned over to a collection agency. These can include your credit accounts as well as accounts with doctors, hospitals, banks, retail stores, cable companies or mobile phone providers.
Lenders and creditors who have permissible purpose to access your credit report information may use it, along with other criteria, to help them make decisions about whether to extend you credit and on what terms. Potential employers and landlords, with your permission, may also access it to help them decide whether to offer you a job or a lease.
Why inquiries are important
The “inquiries” section of your Equifax credit report serves as a record of who has accessed your report. There are two types of inquiries: “hard” and “soft.”
Hard inquiries occur when companies or individuals, such as lenders, creditors, employers, or landlords, review your Equifax credit report because you have applied for a job, credit or service – a new loan, an apartment or rental home, a credit card, utility service, or a mobile phone contract. Hard inquiries remain on your Equifax credit report for up to two years and may impact credit scores.
Soft inquiries do not impact credit scores. For instance, soft inquiries result from your checking your own Equifax credit report, companies extending you pre-approved credit card offers, or your current lenders and creditors conducting periodic reviews of your accounts (known as “account reviews.”) Checking your Equifax credit report regularly can help you monitor your credit accounts and enable you to recognize inaccurate or incomplete information, or suspicious activity that may be an early warning sign of potential identity theft.
Do your credit homework
The more you know about your credit accounts and credit history before making a big decision like buying a house or a car, the more prepared you will be to take on the financial obligations that may happen as a result. Here are some things to consider:
Check your credit reports and credit scores before applying to better understand what information potential lenders and creditors may be evaluating. You’re entitled to a free copy of your credit reports every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit bureaus by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com. You can also create a myEquifax account to get six free Equifax credit reports each year. In addition, you can click“Get my free credit score” on your myEquifax dashboard to enroll in Equifax Core Credit™ for a free monthly Equifax credit report and a free monthly VantageScore® 3.0 credit score, based on Equifax data. A VantageScore is one of many types of credit scores.
When shopping around for a loan, consider: if you apply for a loan with different lenders to see different interest rates they can offer you, the inquiries may impact your credit scores. But if you’re shopping for a car loan, mortgage or a new utility provider, there is a caveat: multiple inquiries for the same purpose within a certain period of time are generally counted as one inquiry. The time period varies depending on the credit scoring model, but it’s typically from 14 to 45 days. This allows you to check different lenders and loan terms. The inquiries may show on your credit report, but generally only one will impact credit scores.
However, this exception generally doesn’t apply to other types of loans, such as credit cards. Those inquiries may each impact credit scores.