If you want to Color Your Credit, you have to understand your credit reports! The first step is to get your credit reports from all three credit bureaus.

Get Your Credit Reports from Annual Credit Report(opens in new tab)

Your credit report will list the last 7-10 years of credit accounts whether they are open, closed or derogatory.

Your FICO credit score is most influenced by the last 24 months of activity. By identifying which creditors have reported within the last 24 months we can cut the credit report down to a couple pages typically.

Once you have the credit reports in front of you, go through each trade line/account listed and identify the following dates:

  • Date Opened
  • Date of Last Activity
  • Date Last Reported / Updated
  • Date of First Delinquency on derogatory accounts currently in collection or charge off status

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Checklist - Things to look for in your Credit Report

Personal Information Section -- This does not affect your score, but still important to check for accuracy!
  • incorrect or incomplete name, address, or phone number
  • lack of prior address if you have not lived long at your current address
  • incorrect Social Security number or birth date
  • incorrect, missing, or outdated employment information
  • incorrect marital status—such as a former spouse listed as your current spouse
Public Records Section
  • a bankruptcy filed by a spouse or ex-spouse, even though you did not file bankruptcy
  • bankruptcies that you filed more than ten years ago or that are not identified by the specific chapter of the bankruptcy code

    Tax liens and civil judgements will no longer appear on your credit report. Bankruptcies are, since 2018, the only public record information routinely added to your credit reports.

Accounts that are open, reporting to all 3 credit bureaus, has reported activity within the last 6 months, and a balance below 10% on credit cards. No late payments in the last 24 months.

Great job! Keep it up! Ideally, you'll want 3 or 4 green accounts.


Open credit cards with a balance more than 10% of the limit.

Stop! Pay down below 10% immediately if you can.
Credit card companies typically report once a month. Call and ask them what day of the month they report or look on your credit reports specifically for Date Last Reported or Updated, and then put a reminder in your calendar to pay it two days before that date, or call and request them to increase your limit so without having to pay it down, the balance to limit ratio is lowered.

See my Debt Pinball method for more.


Open credit cards with no activity reported in 6 months or more.

You have slowed down use on this card, and it may not even be counted in a credit scoring model. Don't forget to use these accounts. Put a reminder in your calendar to rotate usage of these to keep them in the mix of items that move your credit score. Non-use could cause the company to drop the limit or close the card.

See my Easy As 1 2 3 method for more.


Student loans with a balance owed (current or in collections)

Determine if the accounts appear to be reporting accurately. Are they in default? No action necessary if these are being paid on time each month.

See my Student Loan Zone for more.


Accounts with late payments within the last 24 months.
Charge-off accounts with balances reporting
Collections with or without balances updating or reporting in the last 24 months.
Accounts that are not yours.

See Collections, Charge-offs, and Late Payments - oh my! for more.


Any accounts showing currently in dispute.

Disputed accounts are not included in SOME credit scoring models. Follow up on disputes (they will stay on your report until you specifically ask for removal.) Request method of debt verification from the credit bureau after they have completed the dispute, or ask them to remove it.

Closed accounts, derogatory accounts showing Date Late Reported of 6 months or older, unless account is charged off or delinquent.

Visit the Color My Credit Store to book a consultation with Alisa, sign up for the course, or get the book!

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