The 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 )