Your credit report and credit score give companies an idea of how much of a credit risk you might be and how likely you are to repay any loans on time. Whether you are working to put your financial life back together as you get out of debt or simply want to make sure there are no issues with your credit history, it’s important to review your credit report and score from time to time. Although some places will charge you for access, it is possible to get a free credit report, score online from some companies.
Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you are able to get a copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax, once every 12 months. You can access your reports online through AnnualCreditReport.com. Before you are taken to your report, you are asked to verify your identity, usually by answering a series of questions about where you’ve lived in the past and about loans you’ve taken out (or haven’t taken out, as some of the questions are trick questions).
You then have the option of looking at a single report, from one agency, or of looking at all three reports, from each agency. Reviewing all your reports at once lets you see if there are any major issues with one or another or if they are all reporting the same information. If you decide to review just a single report, you can come back again before the end of 12 months and look at the other two. Staggering your review means that you can check on your credit throughout the year without paying an extra fee.
While AnnualCreditReport.com gives you access to your credit reports, it doesn’t let you know what your credit score is, at least not for free. If you want to look at a free credit report, score in the same place, you’ll want to try a service such as CreditKarma.com. CreditKarma lets you review your reports from TransUnion and Equifax and provides you with the scores from each bureau. It is free, but the trade off is that the website uses your credit information in an attempt to sell you credit cards or other services, for which it receives compensation.
What to Look Out For
When you start to look for websites that provide you with a credit report or access to your score, you might notice that there are several that describe themselves as “free” or claim to have “free credit reports.” The Federal Trade Commission has issued a warning about some of these sites, calling them impostor websites. One way to see if the website you’re checking out is going to really offer you a free credit report or not is to see if asks you for payment information. In some cases, a site that is free at first will start charging you after a trial period, and will need a credit or debit card number to do so. AnnualCreditReport.com doesn’t ask you for any payment information before you can review your report.
Even if you haven’t had problems with debt in the past, checking your credit report on a fairly regular basis is essential. Reviewing your report lets you spot any errors and lets you take care of those errors before they interfere with your financial life.
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Consumer Education Services, Inc. empowers people to overcome their financial challenges and lead financially-healthy lives.
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