Keeping up with your credit report is an important part of making sure that your finances are in proper order. However, the cost of looking at your credit report all the time can start to add up.
The good news is that you can access some of the information in your credit report for free.
The first and best resource for checking your credit report for free is AnnualCreditReport.com. When the three major credit bureaus were required to start providing a free copy of your credit report each year, this joint site was established. You can get one free report each year from each of the major credit reporting agencies.
However, it’s important to note that this means that you can’t check as often as you would like. Some recommend that you get a credit report from each bureau every four months. So your first report would perhaps come from Equifax. Then, four months later, you’d get one from TransUnion, and four months after that you’d get one from Experian. By the time the next four month period is over, you are eligible for a free report from Equifax again.
This is one way to look at your credit report for free throughout the year. The main drawback to this method is that the information in each of your reports isn’t always the same. The reports aren’t always identical, so you might miss something for months if it isn’t reported the same on all of the histories you receive.
As a result, keeping tabs means that you need to have a better idea of when you need to correct a mistake on your report, or when your identity might be at stake.
Negative Actions = Free Credit Report
In addition to your free credit report via AnnualCreditReport.com, you are also entitled to a free report when a negative action results from information in your credit report. So, if your insurance premium increases or if you aren’t offered the best possible interest rate on a loan, you are entitled to a free copy of the credit report used to make the determination.
Your negative action explanation will tell you how to get a free copy of your report. Usually, you have to send a written request within 60 days. It’s also important to understand that the free report only applies to the credit bureau that the creditor or other financial service provider used to make the determination; it’s not available for all three bureaus.
Free Credit Reporting Sites
There are also a number of free credit reporting web sites that can provide you access to information in your credit report. Some sites, like Quizzle, provide you with actual information from your credit report. Other sites just give you a summary of what’s in there. Right now, you can get free information from each of the three bureaus, depending on which free sites you sign up for.
Even if you are only getting a summary of information in your credit report, it can still be helpful as you monitor the information in your credit report. This is because you can spot changes in your situation, and then dig deeper if it’s warranted.
When to Pay for a Credit Report
There are times when it makes sense to pay for a credit report. If you are planning to apply for a major loan, such as a mortgage, you should have your “official” credit report from each bureau (it’s possible to get a three-bureau report from a number of sources) so that you know what to expect. Get it early so that you have a chance to make changes if necessary.
It can also be a good idea to pay if you suspect identity theft so that you can fix the problem as quickly as possible. With a little effort, though, you can monitor your own credit without paying an arm and a leg.