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Finances in 55 Seconds: Free Credit Report

Your credit report is your financial reputation. The way that you handle your money is recorded in your credit file, and there are a number of people who check your credit report and use it to make judgements about your likelihood of paying back a loan, or judgments about other areas of responsibility. It’s not just lenders who will look at your credit report: Insurers, employers, cell phone service providers and landlords may all want a peek at your credit report.

According to the law, if you ask for a copy of your credit report [3], it has to be provided to you (you might have to pay for it, though). The credit bureau must let you see everything that it has in your credit file. You are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion, Experian) each year. You can order a second credit report from each of these bureaus for up to $10.50 apiece in the same 12-month period. If you are hoping to get a look at your free credit report, you can do so fairly quickly. Here is your quick guide to getting your free credit report:

  1. Open your web browser and type in annualcreditreport.com: You should realize that there is only one official way to get your free credit report. Do not go to the credit bureau web site. Go to annualcreditreport.com [4]. (3 seconds)
  2. Provide the requested information: You will be asked to select your state and then hit the red button to the right. You will be taken to a page where you need to fill in your info. Then, you can choose which credit reports you want to view. (42 seconds)
  3. Provide verification information for the credit bureau and see your report: Next, you will be taken to the credit bureau’s annual credit report page, and you might be asked to verify information about loans you have had, or previous addresses. Once you have done that, you will be taken to your credit report. (10 seconds)

Why You Should Check Your Credit Report

Checking your credit report is important mainly to ensure that everything is as it should be with your financial reports. You should look for inaccuracies on your credit report [5], since the information in your credit report is used to calculate your credit score. If there is inaccurate information, it could lead to a lower credit score — which could cost you more in terms of interest charges.

It’s a good idea to know what is in your credit report before you apply for a major loan, such as a home loan. That way, if you see problems, you can work on improving your situation, rather than being surprised with a rejection when you apply.

Additionally, your credit report can also be an indication that your identity has been stolen. If you see an account that you haven’t opened, it could be an indication that your identity is being used fraudulently. Someone may have opened a credit card in your name, or used you name for some other loan. Checking your credit report can bring this to your attention. If necessary, you can place a fraud alert on your report to prevent identity thieves from opening more accounts in your name.

Your credit report is an important piece of financial information. Make sure that you know what’s in it.