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The credit report itself is a compilation of facts about how you manage your credit, and for the most part, it is judgment free. It’s up to lenders, insurance companies or others who review your credit reports to evaluate that information and decide what they think, and they usually do that with the help of credit scores. Of course, the information used to calculate your credit score can be found in your credit report, so you don’t really want to evaluate one without checking the other.
There are three main companies that compile credit reports: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. They typically don’t share information with each other, and the data each one collects and reports may be different as a result. That’s why it’s a good idea to review your reports with each of these agencies so you know where you stand. You can get your credit reports free once a year from AnnualCreditReport.com and access two of your free credit scores with updates every month, here on Credit.com. Checking your scores will not harm them in any way, nor will looking at your reports.

Having good credit means that you have built a solid credit history by working hard to keep your accounts in good standing – however, there may be a late payment or two somewhere in your past. Things happen sometimes, but they are nothing you can’t handle. You might have had a collections account reported, but you’ve paid it. And you know you have some extra credit card debt, but you’ve made strides to get it under control.
Secured cards are a great way to build or improve credit. When you open a secured card, you submit a security deposit that typically becomes your credit limit. This deposit acts as collateral if you default on your account, but you can get it back if you close your account after paying off your balance. As long as you use a secured card responsibly — for example, make on-time payments and use little of your available credit — you may see improvements in your credit score. Unfortunately, in addition to the upfront deposit, this credit-building tool can have extra costs, like an annual fee.
The lesson here is that it’s hard to know exactly what your credit score will be when a potential creditor looks at it (or what score they’ll even look at). Instead of obsessing over a specific number, regularly review your credit reports for accuracy and focus on the fundamentals of good credit like paying down debt, making payments on time, waiting for negative information to age off your credit reports and sparingly applying for good credit.
Not all of your lenders report to all three of the credit bureaus – While some lenders do report your credit information to all three credit bureaus, this isn’t mandatory. There are almost always going to be differences in your credit history at one or more of the credit bureaus, though many will be minor and won’t affect your ability to get credit.
SPECIAL NOTE ABOUT COLLECTIONS: Collection agencies will often report debts to the credit bureaus in an attempt to collect from the consumer. This is perfectly legal as defined by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. The issue here is that, intentionally or not, collection agencies sometimes report to the credit bureaus using a newer “purge from” date despite the fact that this is not allowed under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The result of this misreporting is that the collection item will remain on the credit file longer than they should. If that happens, you can dispute the old account.
In the United States, a credit score is a number based on a statistical analysis of a person's credit files, that in theory represents the creditworthiness of that person, which is the likelihood that people will pay their bills. A credit score is primarily based on credit report information, typically from one of the three major credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Income and employment history (or lack thereof) are not considered by the major credit bureaus when calculating credit scores.
Make sure that you are paying all of your debt on time if possible. Doing so will not only improve your credit rating it will ensure that it doesn’t decline. Paying your debts on time will eventually open up more doors to better interest rate credit cards and other more attractive credit offers. You can set up alerts as reminders to pay your bills so it won’t slip your mind.

If I shop around for a balance transfer credit card, my score will get crushed: FALSE! If your score does decline, it probably will not decline by much. You can expect 10-20 points per credit application. But, remember: you apply for a balance transfer to help reduce your balance faster. When you open a new credit card and transfer your balance, then you will be able to:

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Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, a consumer is entitled to a free credit report (but not a free credit score) within 60 days of any adverse action (e.g., being denied credit, or receiving substandard credit terms from a lender) taken as a result of their credit score. Under the Wall Street reform bill passed on July 22, 2010, a consumer is entitled to receive a free credit score if they are denied a loan or insurance due to their credit score.[28]
The Discover it® Secured is a standout secured card that provides cardholders the opportunity to earn cash back while building credit. A cashback program is hard to find with secured cards, and the Discover it® Secured offers 2% cash back at restaurants & gas stations on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, 1% cash back on all your other purchases. In addition, there is a new cardmember offer where Discover will match ALL the cash back earned at the end of your first year, automatically. This is a great way to get a lot of rewards without needing to do any extra work.In addition to a cashback program, this card provides valuable credit resources such as free access to your FICO® Score and a Credit Resource Center — just note these services are available whether you’re a cardholder or not. Discover also takes the guesswork out of wondering when you’re ready for an unsecured card (aka a regular credit card) by performing automatic monthly account reviews, starting at eight months of card membership.
You’ll use your own money as collateral by putting down a deposit, which is often about $150 – $250. Typically, the amount of your deposit will then be your credit limit. You should make one small purchase each month and then pay it off on time and in full. Once you prove you’re responsible, you can get back your deposit and upgrade to a regular credit card. Read more about secured cards here.
When visitors sign up, they’re often enrolled, unwittingly, in a credit monitoring service that charges a monthly fee. In 2010, the Federal Trade Commission attempted to clamp down on this practice. It required “free” sites to provide a warning that, under federal law, the only authorized source for no-cost credit reports (though not free credit scores) is www.annualcreditreport.com.
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.
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