Why is it important to check my credit report?
You should check your credit report for a few reasons:
- To check for identity theft. Identity theft occurs when someone uses your name, Social Security number, or other information for fraud. Examples include opening a bank account, opening a utility account, or getting a credit card. By monitoring your credit report and looking for any suspicious or false activity on a regular basis, you can help ensure that you won’t become a victim of identity theft. If you find any incorrect information in your report, contact the fraud centers of all three credit agencies immediately. Learn more about identity theft.
- To ensure accuracy. A mistake on your credit report can jeopardize your borrowing potential.
- To be an informed consumer. Check your credit report and credit score six to nine months before you think you’ll need credit or a loan. You’ll have time to correct any errors, get a general idea of whether you’ll be approved, and take action to improve your credit score which will improve your chances of qualifying for credit or of lowering your interest rate.
How can I get a copy of my credit report?
By law, you’re entitled to a free credit report from each major credit reporting agency once every 12 months.
From AnnualCreditReport.com, you can go to each agency where you’ll have to answer a few questions to verify your identity. Since there are three major credit reporting agencies, you may want to get a report from a different bureau every four months. Each bureau may have different information about you as various creditors often report information to only one or two bureaus.
Credit scores are not included in your free credit report. You can get your credit score from each agency for a small fee (usually less than $10).
By law, you’re eligible to receive a free credit report if you have been denied credit, insurance, or employment in the past 60 days; if you're on welfare; or if you’re unemployed but will be seeking a job in the next 60 days. Additionally, you’re entitled to a free report if you suspect fraud and/or identity theft.*
*For more information about credit report regulations, visit the Federal Trade Commission website
What can lenders tell from my credit report?
From the information in your credit report, lenders can see:
- How promptly (or late) you make payment on your accounts
- How much money you owe
- How much credit you have outstanding in comparison with the amount you have available
- How often you've applied for credit
- What types of credit you have
- How long your credit accounts have been open
What Does My Credit Report Reveal About My Employment and Income?
Your credit report only provides the name of your employer(s). It does not detail your work history, performance, or earnings.
Can lenders discriminate based on information in my credit report?
No. Your credit report does not include information regarding your income, sex, race, religion, political views, lifestyle, or medical history.
Your credit report only includes items that are related to your credit.
How long does public record information stay on my credit report?
Most information, including bankruptcies, can remain on your report for up to seven years. Bankruptcies can be included for up to 10 years.
What should I do if there is a mistake in my credit report?
If you find a mistake in a credit report, check your reports from the other credit reporting agencies for mistakes, as well.
Once you have done that, contact the agencies that have made mistakes. You can generally request an investigation (which the agency must complete within 30 days) and rectify a dispute with each credit agency online, by phone, or by mail. Visit the credit agencies websites for more detailed information: Equifax.com, Experian.com, and TransUnion.com.
How can I improve my credit score?
The best thing you can do is pay your bills on time. Bring any delinquent bills current as quickly as you can and stay up to date.
Keep your credit card balances low. A good rule of thumb is to keep them at 50% or less of the maximum limit.
Visit The ins and outs of your credit score to learn more.
Why does my credit score differ between credit agencies?
Your score may be different among the three credit reporting agencies for a few reasons:
- Credit data are often collected at different times during the month. Your records at any given time may impact your score.
- Not every lender or creditor you’re affiliated with reports information to all three credit bureaus.
You can request your comparable credit score from the credit agencies through AnnualCreditReport.com.