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Some 200 million U.S. consumers have FICO credit scores, while just under 3 million, or about 1.4 percent, have perfect 850s. That’s according to Fair Isaac Corp., the company behind the 28-year-old scoring model used by lenders to predict whether you will pay back a loan. But over the years the number has become much more than that—it’s now an American totem of success or failure, hope or despair, security or risk. While there are competing models, almost anyone with a credit card knows that a number typically ranging between 300 and 850 holds huge sway over their financial life.
Just want to read your credit report without seeing your score? You can do that once a year, completely free, at www.annualcreditreport.com. The nice thing about this government-sanctioned site is that you can request reports from all three bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Because some banks use only one or two of the reports to make lending decisions, it’s always a good idea to make sure all three contain accurate information about your borrowing history.

At Bankrate, we believe your score plays a key role in understanding your overall financial situation. Not only does it help you make sense of your report, it provides a deeper insight into what creditors and lenders look for when determining whether you qualify for a credit card or loan. That’s why it’s important to check your credit report at least annually. Keeping tabs on it regularly is better, though, because spotting mistakes and irregularities can prevent fraud, identity theft and other credit nightmares.


As you're deciding whether you need professional credit repair, study your own credit report. You can get a free credit report annually from each of the three credit reporting bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – at AnnualCreditReport.com. Checking reports from each of the three is essential because they don't always have all the same information.
Is there a place where I can explain some of the negative information on my credit report?Absolutely. You have the right to attach a statement to your credit report that explains why, for example, you have a few late payments on your record. This statement will be provided to anyone requesting your report. Life is complicated, and this statement might convince an otherwise apprehensive lender to give you a chance.
Be punished for missed payments: Not all late payments are created equally. If you are fewer than 30 days late, your missed payment will likely not be reported to the bureau (although you still will be subject to late fees and potential risk-based re-pricing, which can be very expensive). Once you are 30 days late, you will be reported to the credit bureau. The longer you go without paying, the bigger the impact on your score, ie: 60 days late is worse than 30 days late. A single missed payment (of 30 days or more) can still have a big impact on your score. It can take anywhere from 60 to 110 points off your score.
Most mortgage lenders use a specific version of the FICO score that may be different than the ones consumers obtain through other sources. However that’s less a function of the fact that a reseller is involved (which is common in the mortgage industry which needs tri-merge reports) and more due to the version of the FICO score that meets Freddie/Fannie guidelines. We wrote about different credit scores in this article: Why Do I Have So Many Credit Scores?
If you didn't remember to cancel the trial, your credit card would be charged for a full period of the credit monitoring service. These gimmicks still exist, although now most of them offer your credit report for $1, rather than for free. The legitimate website for ordering your free annual credit report doesn't require a credit card and doesn't ask you to sign up for any trial subscription.
FICO does offer a package called Score Watch, which is basically a 30-day free trial. When you sign up for Score Watch, you get a free FICO score and credit report. You will eventually be charged if you don't cancel, however, FICO will continuously remind you over the course of the 30 days that your free subscription is running out, so hopefully you won't end up forgetting.

A: If you request your report online at annualcreditreport.com, you should be able to access it immediately. If you order your report by calling toll-free 1-877-322-8228, your report will be processed and mailed to you within 15 days. If you order your report by mail using the Annual Credit Report Request Form, your request will be processed and mailed to you within 15 days of receipt.
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