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What can you do to correct these potentially costly errors? The first step is to contact the credit bureaus and the creditors or service provider to check on – and potentially challenge – the information. If the problem is an unpaid debt in an account that was taken out fraudulently in your name, you might have to file a police report and affidavit, Ulzheimer says. This helps separate you from others who tell credit bureaus and creditors the same story, but who are actually trying to get out of paying their bills.

Scoring models consider how much you owe and across how many different accounts. If you have debt across a large number of accounts, it may be beneficial to pay off some of the accounts, if you can. Paying down your debt is the goal of many who've accrued debt in the past, but even after you pay the balance down to zero, consider keeping that account open. Keeping paid-off accounts open can be a plus in your overall credit mix since they're aged accounts in good (paid-off) standing. You may also consider debt consolidation.
Keep in mind that while you're entitled to a free credit report, you will have to pay for your FICO score, which is the most common credit score. You can go to FICO's Web site, and your score will probably cost around $40. A situation in which you may want to buy your credit score is when you're shopping for loans. Your credit score can affect your rate, so knowing your score from each agency may help you decide who will give you the best rate when you borrow money.
Having good credit means that you have built a solid credit history by working hard to keep your accounts in good standing – however, there may be a late payment or two somewhere in your past. Things happen sometimes, but they are nothing you can’t handle. You might have had a collections account reported, but you’ve paid it. And you know you have some extra credit card debt, but you’ve made strides to get it under control.

If you've never had a credit card or loan, you probably won't have a score. And people who haven't used credit in years can become "credit invisible." You are likely to have a VantageScore® before you have a FICO® Score. That's because VantageScore® uses alternative data — such as rent or utility payments, if they're reported to the bureaus — and looks back 24 months for activity. FICO® 8, the scoring model most widely used in lending decisions, looks back only six months and doesn't use alternative data.

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Also, especially if you have multiple cards (the average American has 3.1), try to eliminate the small, lingering balances. "One of the items your score considers is how many of your cards have balances," John Ulzheimer, a credit expert formerly of FICO and Equifax, tells Bankrate. "That's why charging $50 on one card and $30 on another, instead of using the same card, can hurt your score."

A: You need to provide your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth. If you have moved in the last two years, you may have to provide your previous address. To maintain the security of your file, each nationwide credit reporting company may ask you for some information that only you would know, like the amount of your monthly mortgage payment. Each company may ask you for different information because the information each has in your file may come from different sources.
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