Thursday, October 22, 2009
Get Your Free Credit Report
Tip #201 - Get Your Free Credit Report. Up until a few years ago you had to pay to see your credit report. And then a law was enacted that allowed you to see your credit report once per year from each of the three top credit reporting agencies. There is one website to check those credit reports for FREE. The website is: www.annualcreditreport.com.
Ignore the catchy commercials for another site that supposedly offers free credit reports but then ropes you into a monthly service charge unless you opt out in a timely fashion. Instead use www.annualcreditreport.com to check out your credit reports. You may only look at your credit report once per year per each of the three credit agencies – Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. You can look at them all on the same day. If you do, you will have to wait a full year before you can look at any of your credit reports for free again. Or, you can look at your credit report from just one of the agencies and wait a few months to look at the second one, and then wait a few months more to look at the third one. By doing it this way, you can stagger looking at least one report throughout the year. Either way, you have to wait one year before looking at the credit report from the same agency.
If you have never looked at your credit report before, it shows how many open accounts you have such as mortgage and credit card. It shows the balance on these accounts. It also shows recent inquiries into your credit history. It shows any negative information such as bankruptcies, or liens. Then it gives some personal information including name address, and employer. It then gives you steps on how to dispute any information you find in the report that you think might be wrong. Then it gives you a summary of some of the laws associated with your credit and your rights.
You can look at the information online in one session. Once you close it out, you may not look at it again for another year (unless you pay). You can, however, print out a copy for your records, which I suggest you do.
Overall, it is useful to look at your credit report if you think you will be applying for credit in the near future such as a mortgage. Or, if you are the type of person who is just curious to see what your credit summary looks like. Or, if you are worried there may be an error and want to take the first steps to correct it. Remember, to go to www.annualcreditreport.com to check out your credit. Don’t pay for information you can get for free from this site. Note, that this site does not give you your credit score for free. They charge $7.95 for that. I don’t think it’s necessary for you to pay to get your score, especially if the reports look good. If you are applying for a mortgage and they don’t give you the best rate, then you may know something’s up and might want to check it out. But if the credit report looks good, your score should be good, too.
In Real Life (IRL) – I had never checked my credit before. We bought our house in 2000. My husband already had a mortgage through his credit union on a home before I met him. So he knew that he qualified for a good rate. I assumed mine was good, even though I may have been late for a bill here or there, I had never not paid my bills or done anything horrendous to ruin my credit score. And at the time, you had to pay the credit agency to get your report. It wasn’t free until a law passed in 2003. When we bought our home, we qualified for the best rate so I assume my score it decent. I have never paid to find out what the actual number is. And although I am slightly curious (what can I say, I am a math and numbers geek. I like getting high scores!), it’s not worth it to me to pay to find out my score if it’s not necessary.
But recently I became curious to see what my credit reports looked like. After all, I have bounced a few checks. And I have been late to pay my phone or gas bill once or twice when I’m on vacation. I was wondering if that had any effect on my credit. And although we are not planning to take on another mortgage any time soon, we still wonder if my husband’s new company will close his office and move him elsewhere. So the other night, I finally went to www.annualcreditreport.com and gave them the necessary information to find out my credit report from Equifax. That seems to be the biggest or most well-known credit agency, so I chose to look at that one. I figured I would wait to look at the other two at different times of the year.
And what did I find? Nothing bad was in my credit. It listed all of my credit cards, when they were opened, and how much the credit limit was. It also listed my credit card accounts that had closed. The information seemed accurate until I got to my personal information. For my employment, it listed a company I worked for until 1998. I was employed by another company from 1998 until 2007 (and technically am still employed there, I think even though they have no work for me), yet Equifax has no record of me working there. Other than that, it all seemed accurate, and since there was nothing negative on the report, I am just filing it away until next year.
Do I think it’s a good idea to check out your credit? Sure, why not? It won’t hurt you to see what the agencies have on you. And if you find something negative, it will give you a chance to correct it (if it is in fact inaccurate) before you need to apply for some credit. Or, at least it will keep you from being surprised when you are not offered the best interest rate. Why not go check it out?