Americans are entitled to one free credit report in every 12-month period from each of the three credit bureaus, but are not entitled to receive a free credit score. The three credit bureaus run Annualcreditreport.com, where users can get their free credit reports. Credit scores are available as an add-on feature of the report for a fee. If the consumer disputes an item on a credit report obtained using the free system, under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the credit bureaus have 45 days to investigate, rather than 30 days for reports obtained otherwise.
While your credit limit might seem like the number not to exceed on your credit card, experts actually recommend that to minimize negative credit impact, you should only be using 30% of your credit allowance. That means if you have a $9,000 credit limit, you should not exceed spending more than $3,000 before making a payment. This might seem a little counterintuitive, but the reality is credit restrictions like this are put in place to protect you. By spending much lower than your credit limit, you decrease your interest payments and ultimately your debt.
Credit Reports Can Reveal Fraud: Financial fraud can take many forms, most of which will manifest on your credit report before anywhere else. The warning sign could be something as overt as an unknown account being opened in your name, a bankruptcy filing showing up in your public records or a collections account appearing unexpectedly. Or it could be something as simple as a change to your listed name and address. Regardless, you might not notice if you’re not plugged in to your credit report.“Many people think, ‘Well, I’m not about to apply for credit; I’m not about to get a loan; I don’t need to get my credit report,’” said Gail Cunningham, vice president of membership and public relations with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. “Yes, you do because you could be a victim of identity theft.”That’s why you should review your reports at least once a year, and make sure that your free-credit-report provider offers free 24/7 credit monitoring, too (like WalletHub!). This will give you day-to-day peace of mind. And that figures to be worthwhile regardless of your current financial situation or plans for the future.
If you already have a good-to-excellent credit score and a low debt-to-income ratio, you may want to consider refinancing your student loans. When you refinance your loans, you take out a new credit-based private student loan and use the money to pay off some or all of your current loans. (The lender will generally send the money directly to your loan servicers.)
Only one website is authorized to fill orders for the free annual credit report you are entitled to under law — annualcreditreport.com. Other websites that claim to offer “free credit reports,” “free credit scores,” or “free credit monitoring” are not part of the legally mandated free annual credit report program. In some cases, the “free” product comes with strings attached. For example, some sites sign you up for a supposedly “free” service that converts to one you have to pay for after a trial period. If you don’t cancel during the trial period, you may be unwittingly agreeing to let the company start charging fees to your credit card.