The three main credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — each have their own way of describing your payment history. So these three credit-reporting agencies use various codes – such as numbers, letters or symbols – as a shorthand to signal how well (or how poorly) you’ve managed your credit.
When you’re trying to get approved for a mortgage, an auto loan, a student loan, or even just a credit card, it’s bad news to have certain kinds of codes showing in your credit reports.
Codes On Your Equifax Credit Report
Your payment history breakdown is fairly straightforward in Equifax credit files. Therefore, the meaning of the numbers, letters and symbols used in Equifax credit reports are generally pretty easy to understand. Overall, you want to see a lot of asterisk signs that look like this: *. That’s because an asterisk (*) symbol on an Equifax credit report means “pays or paid as agreed.” The vast majority of other notations indicate negative marks on your Equifax credit file, although there are a few exceptions to this.
For example: if a creditor simply didn’t report information about you for some reason in a given month or year, that account history will be classified as “Not Reported” and you will see a code that says NR. This NR code is neutral; it’s not positive or negative for your credit file. But pretty much everything else shows that you have credit blemishes.
Negative Codes on an Equifax Credit File
For instance, here are a host of credit problems you may have faced, along with the Equifax letter code that summarizes or abbreviates the problem.
Collection Account: CA
Charge Off: CO
Voluntary Surrender: VS
When it comes to missed payments, Equifax uses number codes to indicate the severity of your delinquency. So the length of your time that your payment was past due will typically serve as the number code used. Thus, if you’re 30-59 days past due on an account, it will say: 30.
Past-due accounts are noted on Equifax like this:
30-59 Days Past Due: 30
60-89 Days Past Due: 60
90-119 Days Past Due: 90
120-149 Days Past Due: 120
150-179 Days Past Due: 150
180+ Days Past Due: 180
Obviously, the longer you go without making required payments, the more damaging that is to your credit score. The good news is that even if you have less-than-perfect credit, you can still get credit or a loan, as long as your credit files aren’t completely riddled with late payments and other negative marks.
Codes That Describe Inquiries On Your Equifax Credit Report
There are a few other codes you may see in your Equifax credit report. These pertain specifically to “soft” inquiries made about you by a host of creditors, lenders, insurers, employers and others.
Your existing creditors sometimes initiate inquiries, or reviews of your credit, purely as a way to keep tabs on your credit health. These are known as “soft” credit inquiries. They do not impact your credit score and other people can’t see them; only you can.
Your current creditors may be doing soft pulls of your credit report in order to decide whether to increase or decrease your credit line. Alternatively, they may be reviewing your credit files to make you a promotional offer of some kind.
This is also the case with other third-party banks, lenders and additional entities with whom you are not presently doing business. They get your name, address and limited credit information about you – but not your full, detailed credit report – solely for the purpose of making you a credit offer.
According to Equifax, these are some of the notations you might find related to various soft inquiries made of your credit file.
PRM – Inquiries with this prefix indicate that only your name and address were given to a credit grantor so they can provide you a firm offer of credit or insurance. PRM inquiries remain on your credit report for 12 months.
AM or AR – Inquiries with these prefixes indicate a periodic review of your credit history by one of your creditors. Both AM and AR inquiries also remain visible to you on your credit report for 12 months.
EMPL – Inquiries with this prefix indicate an employment inquiry. EMPL inquiries remain on your credit report for 24 months.
PR – Inquiries with this prefix indicate that a creditor reviewed your account as part of a portfolio they are purchasing. PR inquiries will remain on your credit for 12 months.
Equifax or EFX – Inquiries with these prefixes indicate Equifax’s activity in response to your contact with the credit bureau for a copy of your credit file or a research request.
ND – Inquiries with this prefix are general inquiries that do not display to credit grantors. ND inquiries remain on your credit report for 24 months.
ND MR – Inquiries with this prefix indicate the reissue of a mortgage credit file containing information from your Equifax credit file to another company in connection with a mortgage loan. ND inquiries will show on your credit file for 24 months.
Codes On Your Experian Credit Report
Now let’s take a look at the codes and abbreviations found on another credit report: the credit file about you that is maintained by Experian.
In your Experian credit reports, the most positive code you can see is the notation: OK. The OK reference is just like it sounds. When you see “OK” next to an account shown in your Experian credit file, it means that there are no problems with your payment history, that you are current and have met the terms of your agreement.
There are two neutral codes in an Experian report. The first is: CLS, which means closed. The second is: ND, which means there is no data reported for the time period.
Other than the codes just mentioned, all the rest of the number codes and letters you’ll find on an Experian report are reflective of credit payment problems.
Negative Codes on an Experian Credit File.
For example, here are a variety of negative credit scenarios, and the Experian codes used to describe them:
30 Days Past Due: 30
60 Days Past Due: 60
90 Days Past Due: 90
120 Days Past Due: 120
150 Days Past Due: 150
180 Days Past Due: 180
Charge off: CO
Creditor received deed: CRD
Defaulted on contract: D
Foreclosure proceedings started: FS
Claim filed with government: G
Insurance claim: IC
Paid by creditor: PBC
Voluntarily surrendered: VS
Again, none of these are a definite credit deathblow in and of themselves. But if your credit reports show a repeated pattern of late payments and an inability or unwillingness to pay your obligations, then banks, credit unions and other financial institutions definitely won’t be beating down your door to offer you credit.
Codes On Your TransUnion Credit Report
Finally, the TransUnion credit bureau also has its own codes to summarize your credit history and payment behavior. The main code you want to see is OK – as this notation means that you are current on an account.
Besides an “OK” listing, there are four neutral codes on a TransUnion credit file. These are:
CLO – Closed
INA – Inactive Account
N/R – which means Not Reported
X – which means Unknown
None of these codes harm your credit rating, so don’t panic if you see them on your TransUnion credit report. Negative Codes on a TransUnion Credit File. However, other codes in your TransUnion credit file do show harm or damage to your credit health. These include:
30 Days Late: 30
60 Days Late: 60
90 Days Late: 90
120+ Days Late: 120
Charge Off: C/O
Voluntary Surrender: VS
When you examine your TransUnion credit report, it’s also possible that you might see various “remarks” noted. According to TransUnion officials, these remarks occur when creditors make certain comments about your account(s). Any remark that contains brackets like these: < >
A few examples of negative remarks might be comments related to a bankruptcy, a case where a judgment was obtained, a lease was broken, or an account was settled for less than the original amount due.
Now that you have a clear understanding of what all those codes and abbreviations in your credit report mean, you should work hard to improve your credit standing – and also dispute any erroneous information you might find in your credit files.