It's rare that a free credit score truly has no strings attached. In the best-case scenario, you get added to the company's mailing list and have to manually unsubscribe if you don't want to be. Worst-case scenario, you enter your credit card and get automatically enrolled in credit monitoring services. This will show up as a recurring monthly charge on your credit card until you cancel it. However, there's usually a small window -- seven or 14 days -- after you get your free credit score in which you can cancel your subscription without being charged for credit monitoring.
It’s been only a year since I opened my first card last September, and I already have a solid FICO score – 720, the last time I checked. That’s not a perfect score by any means, but it lands me safely in the “good” credit range, meaning I probably won’t have trouble getting approved for new credit in the future. I still have work to do if I want to get into the “very good” credit category, which starts at 740, according to MyFICO, but for a credit card newbie I’m not disappointed in my progress so far.
A: You need to provide your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth. If you have moved in the last two years, you may have to provide your previous address. To maintain the security of your file, each nationwide credit reporting company may ask you for some information that only you would know, like the amount of your monthly mortgage payment. Each company may ask you for different information because the information each has in your file may come from different sources.
Trying to get approved for that new car you’ve been eyeing? What about a home loan? Or even just a credit card? Every time you apply for new credit this shows up as an inquiry, which makes up 10% of your score, and can cause it to go down. Applying for credit too frequently is a red flag to creditors. If you want to keep track of how often you’re applying for credit, or want to make sure you haven’t been a victim of identity theft, we can help. See it now »
An account that’s in collections can severely damage a credit score, since its reached the point that a borrower has given up paying their bills – and now, their lender has asked a collection agency to intervene and get the debt paid. A bankruptcy never has a positive impact on your credit score, but the severity which it affects your numbers depends on your own individual credit profile and situation.
Listen, it happens to everyone. Adulting is hard and sometimes, life gets in the way of life. With so many responsibilities to juggle, it’s not unusual or shameful when something falls off your priority list. If you do miss a payment, don’t panic. Consider calling the credit card company or lender to ask them to remove the fee –– especially if you’ve never missed a payment before. Then, pay the balance as soon as possible.
It’s a good idea to look into inquiries from companies whose names you don’t recognize. While it’s possible they could be from companies you’ve done business with (if they report under a different company name, for example), they could also indicate fraud like identity theft, which we mentioned can bring down your credit scores. You’ll want to dispute any errors you discover as soon as you can to avoid further damage. Not sure where to start? You can learn more about disputing an error on your credit report by reading this primer.
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You are also eligible for reports from specialty consumer reporting companies. We put together a list of several of these companies so you can see which ones might be important to you. You have to request the reports individually from each of these companies. Many of the companies in this list will provide a report for free every 12 months. Other companies may charge you a fee for your report.
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.
When you apply for insurance, the insurer may ask for permission to review your medical history report.., An insurance company can only access your report if you give them permission. The report contains the information you included in past insurance applications. Insurers read these reports before they'll approve life, health, long-term, critical illness, or disability insurance applications.
Yet credit tracking companies have deftly maneuvered around those notifications. Freecreditreport.com, perhaps the most well-known of these firms, began offering credit scores for $1 (which it gives to charity) in order to avoid the FTC rule. Consumers who request their score receive a trial subscription to the Experian Credit Tracker service. If they don’t cancel it within seven days, they’re charged $21.95 a month.
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.
Your credit score is not part of your annual credit report, regardless of whether the report was free or paid, so you'll have to order your credit score separately. You can check it for free through CreditKarma.com, Credit Sesame.com, or Quizzle.com. You can also order your credit score for a fee from myFICO.com or from one of the three credit bureaus.
Understanding your credit score and how it is calculated helps you take control of your credit and may lead to lower interest rates and more money-saving opportunities. Your credit report is one of the most important documents in your life. Whether you’re taking out a mortgage, a car loan or applying for a credit card, your credit report has a huge influence on the offers that lenders will approve you for.
How long does negative information stay on my credit report?Typically, the negative information on your credit report tends to fall off after seven years, or 10 if you’ve been through bankruptcy. Positive information remains on your report for an average of 10 years from the day its corresponding account is closed. This information applies to accounts like mortgages and car loans, which have fixed terms on the number of years for repayment. For revolving accounts, such as credit cards, your positive history will stay on your report for as long as the account is active.
Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication. This site may be compensated through a credit card partnership.
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.