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All those credit cards from college that initially hurt Chua, for example, helped him down the line. That’s because he never cut them up, creating a longer credit history and a higher average age across his accounts. Both of those numbers feed into the 15 percent or so of a FICO score based on the length of your credit history. A virtuous cycle develops when you have good credit, says Chua. More companies offer you credit, which raises your total credit limit, which means you can make bigger transactions but still use the same percentage of your total credit.
Your credit report card is a simple breakdown of what’s on your credit reports, so it’s not as difficult to read as the full version. However, you are entitled to one free annual credit report and you can get the full versions of your Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion reports by going to annualcreditreport.com. You can also get your FICO score from myfico.com.

Following are questions we frequently hear about credit reports and credit scores. In order to find out which of these problems may affect your credit, we recommend you get your free credit reports at least once a year, as well as monitor your credit score for free at Credit.com. You will get a complete explanation of the factors affecting your score, as well as an action plan for better credit.


Mierzwinski says that another option to consider is a credit freeze. A freeze would allow you to restrict access to your credit report. Thanks to the recently approved federal banking deregulation law, the three major credit reporting agencies will soon allow you to freeze your credit for free. This law pre-empts states from passing stronger credit freeze laws on their own, though, he says.
When the investigation is complete, the credit reporting company must give you the written results and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. (This free report does not count as your annual free report.) If an item is changed or deleted, the credit reporting company cannot put the disputed information back in your file unless the information provider verifies that it is accurate and complete. The credit reporting company also must send you written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the information provider.

Chua learned about credit the hard way. He ruined his score by running up debt in college. He read up on how to fix it, went on internet forums, and eventually got his credit into good shape—then he landed a job at consumer credit firm Credit Karma. Even with all that effort, though, the big reason for his success was simple: He didn’t miss a payment for seven years. He also used at most 5 percent of his credit limit, since scores can be hurt by high “utilization rates.”
In today’s banking environment, the decision to offer you a mortgage or grant you a credit card sometimes comes down to one simple thing: your credit score. Based on information in your credit report (no, they are not the same thing), this numerical rating provides an easy way to assess your risk of defaulting on a loan. No wonder, then, that consumers are eager to find out their score – and if possible, for free.

Generally, negative credit records, such as collection accounts, bankruptcies and late payments, will remain on your credit reports for seven to ten- years. Paying off the account sooner doesn't mean it’s deleted from your credit report, but listed as “paid.” Of course, it’s smart to pay your debts, but expect the major change in your report to come after negative records expire.
A: It’s up to you. Because nationwide credit reporting companies get their information from different sources, the information in your report from one company may not reflect all, or the same, information in your reports from the other two companies. That’s not to say that the information in any of your reports is necessarily inaccurate; it just may be different.
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