Most people know that you can obtain a free copy of your credit report from ads for Credit Karma, or some other credit advertisement, but most don’t know that there is only one source for a report that is truly fee. Based on federal law, the website annualcreditreport.com was set up for consumers to annually obtain one free copy of their credit report. The law falls short by failing to require the free credit report to reveal your credit score, so you’ll be asked to pay for that information. But you can probably obtain your credit score for free from your credit union, bank and some credit card companies like Discover. The federal law additionally requires free reports when a creditor takes adverse action such as a denial of credit, insurance or a job, when you’re a victim of identity theft, when you’re unemployed, and when you receive public assistance. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a wealth of information about Credit Reports that is worth exploring, including how to improve your score.
Things You Probably Don’t know about Credit Reports
Most people also don’t know that different credit bureaus and creditors use different formulas for calculating your credit score, so reviewing just the number is not enough! Did you know that in addition to the basic reports on your credit accounts that similar reports are compiled to report your history of paying apartment rent, opening and closing bank accounts, insurance claims, your employment history and your medical history and payments made to medical providers? These specialty reports from about 40 different companies are also available to you on an annual basis. But why should you take the time to request and review these reports?
Ten Reasons to Review your credit reports:
1. Essential part of good money management: Just like developing good habits of paying your bills on time, balancing your check book or regularly reviewing your accounts with an app, you should be aware of what financial information has been compiled about you.
2. Free: Who can resist free? If you’ve ever taken a free sample of food at Costco or Whole Foods, then admit you’re a sucker for something really free.
3. Pat on the back: You don’t often get to give yourself a standing ovation, so here’s a chance to see in print that you’re doing something right.
4. Tax dollars at work: If you’ve ever complained that the government spends too much and accomplishes nothing that affects you personally, then prove yourself wrong by taking action to see a good government regulation working to give you something valuable.
5. Awareness of your web presence: Especially when you’ve made major life changes such as divorce, retirement, or even a job change, it’s time to see what information the world has compiled about your life!
6. Opportunity to clean up a mess: Imagine your dog sneaking into the grocery bags you just set on the counter and tearing open a bag of kibble and it goes flying all over the kitchen. Of course, you would stop and clean up the mess. Finding a mess in your credit report means that someone or something has done something bad and it’s up to you to clean it up.
7. Learn something new: Learning something new keeps us young, interesting and feeling smart! If your report is great, you will feel joy! If not, you have a goal to set and something meaningful to accomplish.
8. Conversation starter: Once you do this, you will be telling all your friends and family why they should do it too, and how easy it is!
9. Build trust: if you have listed your spouse or child as an authorized user on a credit card, you need to be extra cautious that their credit practices are not hurting your credit history.
10. Start a routine: Pick an annual date that you can remember to act each year to get your free copies. How about Labor Day, when you should be celebrating the fruits of your labor, which includes building a great credit profile.