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A number of years ago, before I knew better, I got myself enrolled in a credit monitoring service to get my free credit report and score. I stayed enrolled for well over a year and received nothing for my monthly fee. No updated credit reports and no more scores. Cancelling was very difficult. I had to navitage a internet and phone maze to finally reach someone who would cancel my membership. In my personal opinion, it’s a lot less hassle to get your credit reports at Annual Credit Report and just pay for your score if you really need it.
Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to get a free credit report these days. But we could all stand to make some improvements in terms of how often we check and what we do with the information. So WalletHub convened a panel of personal finance experts for some tips and insights. Below, you can see who they are, what we asked them and how they recommend getting more from your free credit reports.
help guard against identity theft. That’s when someone uses your personal information — like your name, your Social Security number, or your credit card number — to commit fraud. Identity thieves may use your information to open a new credit card account in your name. Then, when they don’t pay the bills, the delinquent account is reported on your credit report. Inaccurate information like that could affect your ability to get credit, insurance, or even a job.
Credit scores are used by lenders, including banks providing mortgage loans, credit card companies, and even car dealerships financing auto purchases, to make decisions about whether or not to offer your credit (such as a credit card or loan) and what the terms of the offer (such as the interest rate or down payment) will be. There are many different types of credit scores. FICO® Scores and scores by VantageScore are two of the most common types of credit scores, but industry-specific scores also exist.
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.
One of the provisions of FACTA, passed in 2003 as an amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), was a requirement that each of the three credit reporting agencies provide, upon request, a free credit report every twelve months to every consumer. The goal was to allow consumers a way to ensure their credit information is correct and to guard against identity theft.
Some of these reasons are relevant all the time; others matter most when you’re planning to apply for a loan. A mistake on your credit report could cost you thousands of dollars in interest over the life of a mortgage, for instance. So try to review your report as regularly as possible, but be extra thorough in the months leading up to a loan or credit card application.
Although not every landlord does so, rent can play a role in improving your credit score in some cases. Making sure that you are paying your rent on time every month is just as important as paying any other bill or debt. Not doing so can make it end up as a late payment and impact your credit score negatively. Ask your landlord if they submit to any of the three major bureaus.
If you’re the parent of a teenager, you might wonder if now is the right time to help them open a credit card. It can be hard to decide if they’re ready to take on the responsibility that comes with having a credit card since you need to trust that your teen has the restraint to limit spending and pay on time. Generally, we recommend introducing your teen to credit as soon as you can since credit is such a large part of life as an adult — you need credit to take out loans, apply for a mortgage and even make certain purchases. Plus, it’s important for your teenager to learn how to manage credit responsibly so they can build good credit.
Risks: While a secured card can be a great way for your teen to build credit, there are a few potential risks. If your teen misses a payment or pays late, they will incur a late payment fee. Plus, they will also be charged interest on any balances that remain after their statement due date. That’s why it’s key to inform your teen of good credit practices, such as paying on time and in full each billing cycle. Autopay is a great feature that can help your teen avoid missed payments and interest charges.
A credit report contains information like where you live, how you pay your bills and whether you've been sued or filed bankruptcy. Landlords, lenders, insurance companies or potential employers may request this information. You should get a copy of your report to make sure the information is accurate, complete and up-to-date. Knowing what's in your report may also help guard against identity theft.
2. Tell the creditor or other information provider in writing that you dispute an item. Many providers specify an address for disputes. If the provider reports the item to a credit reporting company, it must include a notice of your dispute. And if you are correct — that is, if the information is found to be inaccurate — the information provider may not report it again.