Credit Report Terminology


An item on a consumer's credit report that shows that someone with a “permissible purpose” (under FCRA rules) has previously requested a copy of the consumer's report. Fair Isaac credit bureau risk scores take into account only inquiries resulting from a consumer's application for credit. See Soft Inquiry and Hard Inquiry.

Installment debt

Debt to be paid at regular times over a specified period. Examples of installment debt include most mortgage and auto loans. See Revolving Debt.


A decision from a judge on a civil action or lawsuit; usually an amount of money a person is required to pay to satisfy a debt or as a penalty.


A legal claim placed on a person's property, such as a car or a house, as security for a debt. A lien may be placed by a contractor who did work on your house or a mechanic who repaired your car and didn't get paid. A tax lien is attached by a government agency for real estate or income or income taxes owed. The property cannot be sold without paying the lien(s).

Public record

Information on your credit report that has been obtained from court records, such as bankruptcies, judgments, and liens.

Revolving debt

Debt owed on an account that the borrower can repeatedly use and pay back without having to reapply every time credit is used. Credit cards are the most common type of revolving account.

Scoring model

A statistical formula that is used to estimate future performance of prospective borrowers and existing customers. A scoring model calculates scores based on data such as information on a consumer's credit report. See FICO Scores, Credit Score, Credit Risk and Credit bureau risk score

Soft inquiry

An item on a person's credit report that indicates that someone has asked for a copy of his or her report including copies that you request. Soft inquiries can be from current creditors reviewing the file, prospective creditors who want to send out an offer such as a pre-approved credit card, or a person's own review of their file. They are not included in the formula for determining a person's credit score.

Trade line

This is credit industry-speak for an account listed on a credit report. Each separate account is a different trade line.


One of the three major credit-reporting agencies.

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