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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.


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.
Checking your credit can affect your credit score but only if it is a hard credit inquiry. This type of credit check is typically done by creditors when they want to see your entire profile in order to approve or decline you for credit when you are applying. Keep in mind that this is usually a small decline and temporary until you start paying your loan back. Be sure to check your credit score every month from Credit Sesame to see if you have anything negative on your credit report.

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You can request your free credit report online, over the phone, or via the mail system. To get your free copy of a credit report online, head on over to https://www.annualcreditreport.com/. Then select your state from the drop down box, click “get report” and fill out your information. You will need your previous address if you have lived in your current residence for less than 2 years.
Why is it important to check your credit report? It has important information about your financial accounts, how you pay your bills, and if you filed for bankruptcy. You want to make sure everything is accurate, especially before you buy a house or a car or apply for a job. If you notice something wrong, contact the credit reporting company and business providing the information to correct the error.

Your debts and collections will remain on your credit report. Most items ranging from bankruptcies to collections will remain on your credit report for 7 years. It impacts different credit scores differently as well. For example, if you are looking at your FICO score, then the age of the bad debt or collections account will have less impact the older it is, compared to other credit scores who do not take that into account. Bankruptcies can vary as well, where Chapter 10 remains for 7 years, Chapter 7 will remain on your credit report for 10 years.
Under federal law you are entitled to a copy of your credit report annually from all three credit reporting agencies - Experian®, Equifax® and TransUnion® - once every 12 months. Every consumer should check their credit reports from each of the 3 bureaus annually. Doing so will make sure your credit is up-to-date and accurate. Each reporting agency collects and records information in different ways and may not have the same information about your credit history.
Establish new credit – If you’ve filed bankruptcy or have serious delinquencies, the best way to rebuild your score is to jump right back in and establish new credit. But this time you have to manage your accounts more responsibly. Make your payments on time and don’t use up more than 20% of the available credit limits on your credit cards. If you can do this then your scores will increase much faster than simply waiting for your delinquencies to fall off your reports.
To make things more complicated, the FICO scores you see are not the same ones that lenders see, although they are very similar. All FICO scores are based on a scale ranging from 300 to 850, with a higher number representing a better score. If you want the most accurate idea of what your credit score is, you should look at all three of your FICO scores -- one from each of the three credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax).
Introducing your teenager to credit as soon as possible is a great way to get them prepared for all the future credit products they’re bound to encounter in life. Practicing responsible credit behavior with a credit card or even as an authorized user can help your teen establish credit, which is necessary for taking out student loans, mortgages and other credit products. Plus, having a good credit score is key to getting the best rates and terms for credit products.
You can definitely build your credit from scratch by working to improve the factors that go into your score — except for the length of credit history. It’s impossible to travel back in time to open a credit account, so improving this factor just takes patience. Luckily, the length of your credit history isn’t the most important thing that determines your score.
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.
The amount of credit you owe also affects your credit score in a big way. If your credit-to- debt ratio (how much you owe compared to your available credit) is low, your credit score will benefit, since it illustrates that you don’t rely too much on credit. You can figure out your utilization rate by dividing your total credit balances by your total credit limits.
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When you apply for any new line of credit - for example, a new credit card - the creditor requests a copy of credit report from one or more of the credit bureaus. The creditor will evaluate your credit report, a credit score, or other information you provide (such as income or debt information) to determine your credit worthiness, as well as your interest rate. If you're approved, that new card - called a tradeline, will be included in your credit report and updated about every 30 days.
Certain types of inquiries (requests for your credit report). The score does not count "consumer disclosure inquiry," which is a request you have made for your own credit report in order to check it. It also does not count "promotional inquiry" requests made by lenders in order to make a "preapproved" credit offer or "account review inquiry" requests made by lenders to review your account with them. Inquiries for employment purposes are also not counted.
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Annualcreditreport.com and the nationwide credit reporting companies will not send you an email asking for your personal information. If you get an email, see a pop-up ad, or get a phone call from someone claiming to be from annualcreditreport.com or any of the three nationwide credit reporting companies, do not reply or click on any link in the message. It’s probably a scam. Forward any such email to the FTC at spam@uce.gov.
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