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Review Your Credit Report Annually

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Credit Card on a KeyboardThe Fair Credit Reporting Act gives us the right to see our credit reports every twelve months. I’ve written in the past that I like to stagger my requests so that I get one report every four months, giving me the most up to date information as frequently as possible (without paying for a service).

Reviewing your credit report on a regular basis, whether it’s staggered or all three at once, is important because you want to catch identity fraud and credit report errors (errors are common) as early as possible. The worst case scenario is when you discover a problem because a lender, who pulled your credit to make a loan decision, has questions about some odd entries. Cleaning up a mistake early can pay dividends down the road, especially since it’s free and only costs you time.

This post is part of the Bargaineering Annual Financial Review week series where we take a closer look at the four major facets of personal finance and see if we can do better. This post is part of day two – reviewing and optimizing your relationship with credit.

Request Your Free Credit Reports

There are three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. To request a free credit report from any of those bureaus, simply go to AnnualCreditReport.com (for convenience I linked to it but I recommend typing it into the browser yourself, you never know what some other unscrupulous websites will try to pull on you) and follow the process there to get your report. You should get online access to your report within 10-15 minutes, depending on how quickly you can enter in your data.

Don’t go anywhere else to request your reports. That is the website set up by the government to help facilitate your request. The website will redirect you to the individual bureaus but to make things easier, I always go through the official site. The bureaus will try to upsell you on a bunch of their services, you can’t blame them for trying, but you don’t have to sign up for anything to get your report. You won’t need to provide a credit card or other method of payment.

After your request your report, save it to your computer and review it closely. Then go through each of the sections, reviewing it line by line for inaccuracies or errors. I reviewed my Equifax credit report just recently, including the important areas to inspect more closely. It’s important to do this on a regular basis because finding credit report errors early makes them easy to resolve. If there’s fraud, you want to know as soon as possible.

This afternoon, I’ll unveil a free new service that will send you email reminders every four months for you to pull your next credit report.

(Photo: fosforix)

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9 Responses to “Review Your Credit Report Annually”

  1. glixon66 says:

    Muchas gracias, Jim. The suggestion of staggering the reports every 4 months is perfect! I’m going to definitely do that.

    I look forward to the email reminder service info.

  2. lostAnnfound says:

    The email reminder service would be great. I remember to get our credit reports every first of the year as we prepare our taxes, but all of our good intentions to get it again later in the year are forgotten.

  3. zapeta says:

    I pull one of the three reports every 4 months. I can’t wait to hear about the email reminder service later this afternoon, that would be very helpful.

  4. tbork84 says:

    An easy email reminder service that takes only a minute or two to set up, google calendar. I have my reminders sent every four months directly to my email. So far its working out great since it hasn’t failed to elicit an “Oh yeah, I completely forgot I should be doing that this week.”

  5. Ryan says:

    Thanks for the reminder Jim, I pulled all three today to check for errors and except for some weird addresses, which I think may belong to my brother, in my history nothing was out of the ordinary. I wonder if it is worth trying to fix them?

    My credit score slid down 10 points since last year but we have paid off 2 car loans and barely used our credit card so it wasn’t unexpected; still I was glad to see a FICO of 795 this year.

    Since this is my first comment, I wanted to say thanks for the site, I visit regularly and pass on some posts to friends and coworkers.

    • Jim says:

      Yes, I always fix errors because you want it to be 100% accurate. It won’t improve your score but there will come a time when someone asks you for former addresses and they may pick one of the ones you don’t remember living at (because you didn’t live there). It will cost a little time but it’ll be well worth it.

  6. eric says:

    I can never remember doing this on time…must check out the service!

  7. jsbrendog says:

    i did this for the first time in january i believe and found an error on experian. I filed a statement saying i would like an investigation because i never lived at the address marked and a week later it was confirmed and removed. frightening, but easy.

  8. Ryan says:

    Old post, but I just checked my credit report and saw a huge error. On my credit card (which I carry a balance that I’m currently paying down) they aren’t showing a credit limit (the card does have one). So my debt to credit ratio is way over %100.


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