Each U.S. citizen is entitled to one free credit report every 12 months from each of the three major nationwide consumer credit agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Your credit report matters because it can affect your credit card approval, mortgage rate, or job application. Periodically reviewing your credit reports is an important task, as it allows you to spot signs of identity theft early.
What is a credit report?
A credit report is an organized list of information related to your credit activity. Businesses and other sources report your credit, loan, and payment history to one or more of the credit reporting companies on a regular basis. The credit reporting companies compile the data for people in the United States. Since not all businesses report to the same credit agency, your reports from each agency may contain different information. Credit reports will list a variety of information, including:
- Names of businesses that have given you credit or loans
- The total amount of each loan or credit limit for each credit card
- How often you paid your loans or credit cards on time, how much you paid, and whether you had any late or missed payments
- Information on bad debts
- Your current and former names, addresses, and/or employers
- Any bankruptcies or other public record information
- Businesses that have obtained your credit report within a certain period of time
How do I get my free credit report?
You can ask for your free credit reports online, via phone, or by mail.
- Online: Visit www.annualcreditreport.com
- By Phone: Call 1-877-322-8228
- By Mail: Download the request form from www.annualcreditreport.com, complete the form, and mail the completed form to the address listed on the form.
How often should I request my credit reports?
You are entitled to one free report from each agency every 12 months. You may request all three at one time or you can spread your requests out throughout the year. Some people request a credit report from a different agency every 4 months so that during the course of one year they have reviewed the reports from all three agencies. For example, they might request a report from Equifax in January, a report from Experian in May, and a report from TransUnion in September.
What should I look for when I review my credit report?
Make sure that you recognize the information on your credit report. Then check that the information on your credit report is accurate and complete. If you find information that you believe does not belong to you or is not correct, contact the business that issued the account or the credit reporting company that issued the report.
Where can I get more information?
The Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau sites contain extensive information about credit reports, your rights, and the laws that guarantee these rights. You can learn more about your free reports at the Federal Trade Commission’s website and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s website.
Credit: Information for this blog post came from www.annualcreditreport.com.
Andrea L. Blackwelder, CFP®, ChFC and Joseph D. Clemens, CFP®, EA are the founders and partners of Wisdom Wealth Strategies. Their shared passion is simple: to bring financial empowerment, understanding, and peace-of mind to people who wish to improve their financial future, build wealth for their families, and achieve financial independence. Click here to find out more about how you can work with Wisdom Wealth Strategies.