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By law, consumers are entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the three major credit-reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act of 2003 gives consumers that right and requires the credit bureaus to provide a free credit report upon request through a centralized source, AnnualCreditReport.com.
An award-winning writer, editor and content strategist, Bob Musinski focuses on trends and issues related to credit cards and loans for U.S. News. He also has written dozens of stories for publications such as AAP News, Naperville Magazine and Natural Products Insider. He worked as an editor and reporter for three daily newspapers and an international wire service, where he covered events such as the World Series and Super Bowl and earned a national writing award from the Associated Press. His experience also includes planning and writing annual reports; strategizing, editing and writing for blogs; speechwriting; and strategic messaging development.
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.
Tip: Be cautious of websites that claim to offer free credit reports. Some of these websites will only give you a free report if you buy other products or services. Other websites give you a free report and then bill you for services you have to cancel. To get the free credit report authorized by law, go to AnnualCreditReport.com or call (877) 322-8228.
Having good credit is important because it determines whether you'll qualify for a loan. And, depending on the interest rate of the loan you qualify for, it could mean the difference between hundreds and even thousands of dollars in savings. A good credit score could also mean that you are able to rent the apartment you want, or even get cell phone service that you need.
But WalletHub isn’t the only place you can get a free credit report. The most important alternative is AnnualCreditReport.com, the government-sponsored site where we all can get a copy of each of our three major credit reports every 12 months. While WalletHub provides unlimited access to your full TransUnion credit report, updated daily, you can use AnnualCreditReport.com to review your other two reports from Experian and Equifax. But don’t check both at the same time. Review one of them now, and save the other one for later — say, six months from now. Pulling your Experian and Equifax reports in six-month rotations will help you ensure you’re not missing anything for an extended period of time. Just bear in mind that using only AnnualCreditReport.com would be a mistake, as it would blind you to credit-report changes for much of the year.
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.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each of the three credit reporting bureaus to supply consumers with a free credit report once per year. Federal law also entitles consumers to receive free credit reports if any company has taken adverse action against them. This includes denial of credit, insurance or employment as well as reports from collection agencies or judgments, but consumers must request the report within 60 days from the date the adverse action occurred. In addition, consumers who are on welfare, people who are unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days, and victims of identity theft are also entitled to a free credit report from each of the reporting agencies.
However, there is a big myth that you have to borrow money and pay interest to get a good score. That is completely false! So long as you use your credit card (it can even be a small $1 charge) and then pay that statement balance in full, your score will benefit. You do not need to pay interest on a credit card to improve your score. Remember: your goal is to have as much positive information as possible, with very little negative information. That means you should be as focused on adding positive information to your credit report as you are at avoiding negative information.
Unpaid Tax Liens – These will stay on your credit report indefinitely. Yes, indefinitely. Once paid, the will remain on your credit reports for seven years from the date they were filed, not the date you pay them off. It is possible to get unpaid tax liens removed from your credit before the tax debt is satisfied if you qualify for the IRS Fresh Start program.
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.
To order, visit annualcreditreport.com, call 1-877-322-8228. Or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. Do not contact the three nationwide credit reporting companies individually. They are providing free annual credit reports only through annualcreditreport.com, 1-877-322-8228 or mailing to Annual Credit Report Request Service.