Have you ever wondered how to get a free credit report? It’s pretty easy, really. You can access your credit reports once a year from each of the three major credit bureaus. But before we get into that, below is more information on the different types of credit reports and why it’s so important to know your credit scores.
If you're like nearly half of Americans, you might think your credit reports and credit scores are the same thing. It's an easy mistake to make, considering the two are so closely related.
What is a Credit Report?
Your credit reports contain a rundown of your credit history, including all of your past credit cards and loans including the ones you have today.
Your credit reports can include personal information like: employment history, your previous addresses, credit inquires, dates accounts opened, & any liens or wage garnishments. (Hopefully you've never experienced that!) Credit reports will generally retain negative information for seven years and bankruptcy filings for 10 years.
What is a Credit Score?
Your credit score is a number based on the information that's in your credit report. It gives lenders a general idea of how financially responsible you are. The higher your score is, the less risky you appear. That can mean better interest rates when you look to buy a new home, a new car and more.
There are five main factors in determining a credit score:
- Your payment history
- Amounts owed
- Length of credit history
- Types of credit
- New credit
Generally, an excellent score is 750 and above, while a poor credit score is anything from 550 below. It’s important to stay on top of your credit and to know your score. Knowing where you stand keeps you in control of your credit and allows you to respond to changes quickly in case your score falls. You also won’t be surprised at the outcome during the loan application process if you know your score.
Credit Reporting Agencies
When it comes to getting your free credit reports, there are three major credit bureaus:
Why Credit Reports Differ
Not all information gets reported to every bureau. Your reports may show different credit scores and that’s completely normal. Each of the three main credit bureaus has its own way of deciding what financial behaviors they want to emphasize and each bureau is considered a different company. They all have their own data and scoring products. It is definitely important to stay on top of your reports and make sure the information is accurate. You can dispute information that is not accurate and doing so may take some time.
How to Get a Free Credit Report
Everyone is entitled to one free credit report from each of the major credit bureaus every 12 months. To request your free credit report, simply call 1-877-322-8228 or visit AnnualCreditReport.com.
This is the only website authorized by federal law to provide your free annual credit report. In order to get it, you'll need your name, date of birth, Social Security Number and address. If you've moved in the past two years, you may need to include your previous address as well.
How you choose to receive your credit report is entirely up to you. You can have it mailed directly to your home or view it instantly online. If you decide to receive your report electronically, make sure you print a copy to keep for your records.
You can also check your TransUnion credit report for free anytime by using CreditWise from Capital One. I've used this personally and it's pretty convenient. I like logging in and always seeing where they've got my score pegged at. Getting your score through the app won’t hurt your score, and it allows you to stay up to date with changes to your credit score by email and push notifications.
Common Credit Report Errors
A report from the Federal Trade Commission found that 1 in 5 people have disputed at least one error on their credit report that had to be corrected by a credit bureau. These errors could damage your credit and may be caused by identity theft—the fastest-growing crime in America.
If you spot an error on your credit report, contact the credit-reporting agency and the company that provided the information in order to request the necessary changes.
Stay on top of your finances by taking advantage of your free, yearly credit report and by checking your credit score anytime with CreditWise.
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