Your credit report is very important. It is imperative to keep a handle on it.
Did you know that you’re able to freely get a copy of your credit report once a year? An amendment passed in 2003 to the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires consumers possess the ability to assess a copy of their own credit reports at no charge at least once per year. This amendment, called the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, or FACTA, allows consumers to view and petition items on their reports in the event of errors and mismatching information.
The three major credit reporting agencies all comply with the FACTA amendment. This means that Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion must give you a copy of your credit report once a year. The U.S. Federal Government requires this information be available through 3 mediums: telephone, mail, and one authorized Internet site.
What is the easiest way?
The absolute easiest way to obtain your credit report from all three of the major agencies is by using AnnualCreditReport.com. This site is the only site authorized by the U.S. Government to comply with the FACTA amendment.
Remember, checking your own credit file can harm neither your score nor your file in any way. Checking your report from time to time is not only harmless but extremely prudent for your financial well-being. Don’t let time pass between incident and your involvement. When you catch a mistake or possible identity theft early, the ramifications and aftermath are usually much easier to deal with because less residual compounded damage has occurred.
Here is AnnualCreditReport.com as of January 2013. The site is relatively straightforward. The first thing you’ll need to do is provide the state where you reside by selecting it from the drop down menu on the main page. Then you will continue by clicking the Submit button to the right of that.
The next page is the meat of the site. It requires all information necessary to bring up your individual credit file for the 3 agencies. As previously mentioned, this site is the official compliance page endorsed by the U.S. Federal Government. You do not need to worry about your information being misused here. After filling out all fields and properly answering the on-page human-validation question, click Continue to proceed.
This next page will prompt you to select which agencies you want to query for respective copies of your credit report. Agencies can have differing reports due to reporting discrepancies and human error. The best option is to select all three. You will then be able to compare the reports and work to resolve any issues and mismatches with the individual agencies. When you’ve selected the appropriate radio buttons, click Next to proceed.
If you selected TransUnion on the previous page, this next page will be the one you see. This is the first page with the AnnualCreditReport.com header. This is important to note and has been highlighted with a red outline below. This header will continue the easy navigation through your reports. As the page indicates, any time you are ready to leave the agency’s site and return to AnnualCreditReport.com and your other reports, you will click on Return to AnnualCreditReport.com in the header as noted by the blue circle. When you are ready to go to TransUnion, click Next.
The instructions on the following page will allow you to better verify your identity to the individual credit union. Do not be alarmed by the odd information presented. If none of the options are relevant to you, then that is fine. Select the appropriate answer to indicated this and move on to the next page and your credit report from that agency.
The pages are very similar from here, and when you have viewed your report, return to AnnualCreditReport.com to continue on to the next.
But what about my credit score?
There is no law requiring the agencies to disseminate your actual Fair Isaac and Company credit score. Your FICO score uses a somewhat proprietary formula that is derived from the ratio of your total outstanding credit to your total available credit, the length your accounts have been opened, any late payments reported, and a host of other lesser known variables.
While there is no completely free way to obtain your credit score, there are some paid services that offer trials allowing you to see one or more of the agencies’ scores. The following are some popular providers.
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Good luck and remember to keep your credit file healthy and clear of issues. The best thing to do is to try to resolve late payments and other issues as soon as possible with your credit issuer before infractions are reported.