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You’ve decided to take the plunge and review your credit reports. (Good call. Credit impacts so many aspects of our lives. It’s important to know where you stand.) The first part — getting your free credit report — should be easy. Just hop over to AnnualCreditReport.com and request them online, by telephone or by mail. Once you have them, the fun begins. You get to read and try to understand all the information the three major credit bureaus have compiled about you. That may seem daunting at first. After all, most reports consist of pages and pages of information. But there are ways to keep your eyes from crossing.
A credit report contains information like where you live, how you pay your bills and whether you've been sued or filed bankruptcy. Landlords, lenders, insurance companies or potential employers may request this information. You should get a copy of your report to make sure the information is accurate, complete and up-to-date. Knowing what's in your report may also help guard against identity theft.
For a FICO® Score to be calculated, your credit report from the bureau for which the score is being calculated must contain enough information - and enough recent information - on which to base a credit score. Generally, that means you must have at least one account that has been open for six months or longer, and at least one account that has been reported to the credit bureau within the last six months.
Website: Visit AnnualCreditReport.com and follow the instructions. Once you fill out the necessary personal information, including your Social Security number and date of birth, you can select whether you want one, two or all three of the credit companies' reports right away. After answering some questions about your past addresses and accounts, you'll have a chance to download the report and view it on your screen.
We have security measures and tools, such as firewalls, in place to help protect against the loss, misuse and alteration of the information under our control. Unfortunately, no data transmission over the Internet or data storage system can be guaranteed to be 100% secure. If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure (for example, if you feel that the security of any account you might have with us has been compromised), please notify us of the problem as soon as possible by contacting us in accordance with the Section "Contacting Us" below (note that if you choose to notify us via physical mail, this will delay the time it takes for us to respond to the problem).
The interpretation of a credit score will vary by lender, industry, and the economy as a whole. While 640 has been a divider between "prime" and "subprime", all considerations about score revolve around the strength of the economy in general and investors' appetites for risk in providing the funding for borrowers in particular when the score is evaluated. In 2010, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) tightened its guidelines regarding credit scores to a small degree, but lenders who have to service and sell the securities packaged for sale into the secondary market largely raised their minimum score to 640 in the absence of strong compensating factors in the borrower's loan profile. In another housing example, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac began charging extra for loans over 75% of the value that have scores below 740. Furthermore, private mortgage insurance companies will not even provide mortgage insurance for borrowers with scores below 660. Therefore, "prime" is a product of the lender's appetite for the risk profile of the borrower at the time that the borrower is asking for the loan.

Lenders are not required by law to report to credit bureaus but they typically do report to at least one bureau. This is why your credit reports might not be the same across all bureaus. Some lenders might report it to one bureau while others might report to all three – while others won’t report it at all. Check your credit score and credit report across all major bureaus to make sure that you have no errors being reported as that would be a much bigger issue than your credit reports in one bureau missing some information.

If you already have a good-to-excellent credit score and a low debt-to-income ratio, you may want to consider refinancing your student loans. When you refinance your loans, you take out a new credit-based private student loan and use the money to pay off some or all of your current loans. (The lender will generally send the money directly to your loan servicers.)
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.
Watch out for the upsell! The legislation only requires the credit bureaus to provide a free copy of your credit report, not a free copy of your credit score. The credit bureaus are more than happy to give you a copy of your credit score if you are willing to pay for it. TransUnion owns the company TrueCredit, and you have the option of purchasing your credit score for $5.95. I checked my score about a year ago, and haven’t had any major changes in credit, so I declined – I’m only interested in my credit report at this time.
A: If an investigation doesn’t resolve your dispute with the credit reporting company, you can ask that a statement of the dispute be included in your file and in future reports. You also can ask the credit reporting company to provide your state­ment to anyone who received a copy of your report in the recent past. You can expect to pay a fee for this service.
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.
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.
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