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How Do I Get My Free Annual Credit Report?

How Do I Get My Free Annual Credit Report?

Your credit report contains crucial information about your financial history and your use of credit. This information is used to determine your credit score — the score lenders consider when they determine whether you are eligible for certain financial products.

If the information in your credit report is negative or incorrect, this could spell disaster for your credit score and your ability to qualify for loans or other forms of credit. For this reason, it’s crucial to check your credit report at least once per year — or even more often. By checking your credit reports, you’ll be in the best position to dispute incorrect information and monitor your credit for signs of identity theft or fraud.

How Do I Get a Copy of My Credit Report?

Fortunately, you can get a copy of your credit reports from the three credit reporting agencies — Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian — once per year thanks to requirements in the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suggests ordering your report through a website approved by the federal government — AnnualCreditReport.com.

This website allows you to get a free copy of your credit report from all three agencies once per year, but you don’t have to order all three reports at the same time. Some consumers stagger their reports every few months to spread them out over each twelve-month period.

To get a copy of your credit reports, you’ll need to visit the website above and provide some basic information. Expect to share your name, your Social Security number, your address, and your date of birth. If you have moved recently, you may need to share previous addresses as well.

You’ll also need to answer security questions based on your personal information and profile. These questions can vary based on the credit reporting agency you’re attempting to access your credit report with, but you’ll need to answer accurately to move forward.

Why Do I Need to Check All Three Credit Reports?

While you may feel like checking a report from one credit bureau is enough, checking all three of your credit reports regularly is the better option. Because not all lenders that offer credit use the same credit reporting agencies to check your credit when you apply for a loan, the information on your three credit reports can vary.

You may find negative reporting on one credit report that isn’t listed on the others, for example. It’s also possible you’ll find typos or mistakes on one report that is correct on the others. In summary, it always pays to check and make sure all information is accurate on all three reports since the information included may not be identical.

What is the Difference Between My Credit Report and My Credit Score?

Your credit report is a listing of all your financial details, your loans, and your payment history, whereas your credit score is a three-digit number used to represent your overall credit health. While there are several credit scores used, most use a scale of 300 to 850, with 850 being the highest score one can achieve.

The most popular credit score used by lenders is the FICO score. If you’re curious about your credit score, you can check it for free online through various websites, including CreditSoup. Several credit cards also offer a free credit score on your monthly statement.

However, keep in mind that your credit report is just as important as your credit score. Your credit score is determined by the details in your credit report, so it’s crucial to make sure they are accurate.

What Will I Find In My Credit Report?

Checking your credit reports several times per year can help you avoid credit mishaps or lingering mistakes that could be easily fixed. However, it’s important to know what information is in your credit report so you know what to look for. According to myFICO.com, the main information included in your credit report includes:

  • Personal information: Your credit report includes your name, your address, your date of birth, employment history, Social Security number, and other personal details.
  • Credit accounts: All your current credit accounts are included in your credit report. Additional details include the type of account, when you opened it, your credit limit, your loan amount, your balance, and your payment history.
  • Credit inquiries. Every time you apply for a credit card or line of credit, this information is collected. You will find all credit inquiries you’ve made on your credit reports.
  • Public record: You’ll also find information of public record on your credit report, such as details on overdue debts, debts in collections, bankruptcies, liens, and lawsuits.

The Bottom Line

While checking your credit report may seem like a hassle, this move is crucial if you want to keep your credit score in tip top shape. Mistakes on your credit report can count against you, and you may not know about them if you don’t check your reports regularly. If you do find a mistake on your credit report, it’s also possible to dispute the mistake online and get it corrected before it hurts your credit score any worse than it has.

Another reason to check your credit reports regularly is to protect yourself against identity theft and fraud. Checking your credit reports regularly is one of the only ways to find out if someone has opened a line of credit in your name or attempted to steal your identity. Remember that all hard inquiries made in your name are listed on your credit report — so you could even find out if someone tried to open credit in your name and failed.

Checking your credit report is free with each of the three credit reporting agencies once per year as well, so you have few excuses to avoid taking this step. You have nothing to lose by checking your credit reports, but a lot to gain if you’re able to fix errors that were hurting your score or spot signs of identity theft early.

You need good credit if you hope to qualify for credit cards and loans with the best rates and terms, but it’s up to you to protect your credit over the long haul. Checking your credit report is a smart move to make every year, no matter what.

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