Your credit report affects a lot more than the range of available credit card options for you. Your FICO score determines the interest rate of the loans you will be taking, and it influences the potential lender’s decision to issue the loan in the first place. It has become necessary for every US citizen to keep an eye on their credit score for ensuring their financial well-being.
What does FCRA say about free credit reports?
According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), any consumer can get one FREE credit report per year from either one of three main reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. There are other companies in every state that have the legal authority to collect the consumer’s credit information. Moreover, the data from their credit reports can provide additional useful information such as the consumer’s FICO score, and current financial status.
The FCRA limits the number of companies or authorities, who can view the credit reports of the consumers and details the precise circumstances, under which these companies can do so. For example – when a person applies for a new loan, the lender may check the applicant’s credit reports. Even an employer can check a job applicant’s financial history, but only when the applicant has agreed to it.
How can you gain your free credit report from authorized websites?
Here’s how you can get your free credit report every year –
Check the site
First, make sure you are on the authorized website that gives free annual credit reports. There are quite a few spammy sites that look authentic and promise free reports, but they ask for your credit card number and get you to subscribe for a myriad of services. Learn more about receiving your free annual credit report at PFA.
Provide personal info
Even the official website will ask for your social security number, name, address, and birthdate. These are necessary for cross-verification of your details with that they have in the files. The actual website will never divulge your sensitive information like your SSN and contact details to third-parties.
Request the credit report
On the site, you will see options for choosing your credit bureau. You can choose one from the three major reporting bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, or all three.
Get access to credit history
For gaining access to your credit history, the site will ask you to answer a few questions about your current finances, which only you can answer. For example, the status of your home mortgage, or the number of pending installments of your auto loan.
Some consumers find it difficult to answer these questions, especially the ones that are old. In such cases, you can skip answering these questions and opt for your free annual credit report via phone or mail.
Generate the reports
You can generate the credit reports instantly, and save them on your desktop. Or, you can print them directly for immediate discovery.
If you have requested credit reports via mail, it can take up to 15 days to reach you.
Note: most people misunderstand the concept of one free annual report, and they stick to only one credit union for their credit check. However, you should opt for all three credit bureau reports, since they differ slightly. The minute differences can offer you with additional data that can help you keep your FICO score in the green zone for the upcoming days. Such changes can help you uncover unauthorized transactions or transient identity thefts that you may have ignored in the past.
What can you do after receiving your credit report?
All consumers can request one free credit report every 12 months at the government-authorized site – AnnualCreditReport.com. When checking their credit reports, the consumers have the right to –
Approach the credit bureau about any incorrect information on the report.
Double-check the accuracy of these reports, especially while applying for a new job.
Request for the removal of outdated and detrimental information, especially if it is 7 to 10 years old (bankruptcy).
Receive information regarding the use of information in their credit report file against them during loan or line of credit applications.
Register a complaint with the Federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in case the credit bureau does not reply to the consumer’s requests on time.
What can you expect on the credit report?
Here’s what you can expect on the credit report –
The report dost not provide the consumers with their FICO scores directly, but only with their detailed report.
The complete history of your expenses on credit cards and other open lines of credit.
The expense and credit data from the three major credit bureaus.
After you receive the credit report, you can use any personal finance site to keep an eye on your expenses and frequent changes in your FICO score after every loan repayment. Tracking your credit score periodically can help you build your credit score, and it can improve your chances of receiving better interest rates on loans in the future.
Is it possible to receive a credit report more than once for free?
Anyone meeting at least one the following criteria can receive a copy of their credit report free for more than once in 12 months from all three bureaus –
Unemployed people who intend to apply for a job in the upcoming 60 days.
People who are living on public welfare assistance.
People who suspect credit card fraud and the inclusion of erroneous information on their credit report as a result.
Any person who has experienced rejection or denial from a credit card or insurance companies in the last 60 days.
People who have already applied a “fraud alert” on their credit reports in the past.
Keeping an eye on the credit report can not only help you mitigate fraud or stop identity theft, but it can also give you viable ways to improve your credit score within the next couple of months.