Your credit score is determined based on information on your credit report. We are constantly reminded that we need to check our credit report, but we assume it is a low priority to-do item. Errors on your credit report can affect your ability to get a loan or even a job. According to a 2007 CBS article, 80% of consumers have an error on their report. The first time I pulled my report, it had several of my grandfather’s (who I was named after) accounts and payment history on my report. Do you know what your credit report says about you?
There are 3 credit bureaus that collect information, and report a numerical credit score: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. Each credit bureau will report a different score based on the information they chose to collect, so it is important to pay attention to all 3. According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you are entitled to receive a free copy of your report annually from each of the credit bureaus. Although you may see catchy TV advertisements for companies that will pull your report for a fee, these are scams and should be avoided.
To obtain your credit reports, go to http://www.AnnualCreditReport.com. Go through the process to request each of your 3 credit reports. It is important to note that you will not receive your credit score, only a copy of your actual report. During the process of getting your credit report, you can request your credit score, but you will have to pay for it. I don’t believe it is necessary to pay for your credit score, because knowing the number is not important. It is much more important to focus on the information in your credit report which is going to be used to determine your credit score.
Once you obtain your reports, go through them with a fine tooth comb. Check all of the information in your report to insure that it is completely accurate. Every error is important, so don’t brush over any of them. If you find errors (chances are you will) you will need to report it to the credit bureau and request that they fix it. They will verify that it is indeed an error, and are legally obligated to fix it within 30 days. Don’t expect the process to be easy as the credit bureaus tend to move slowly.
Once you have gone through your 3 reports and fixed all of the past errors, the last step is to put an alert on your calendar 1 year from now to check your reports again. Ideally you would check one of the 3 reports every 4 months, however it is fine to pull them all once per year.