How Credit Works

How to Get a Free Credit Report

Federal Law allows every citizen to get a free credit report every year from each of the three credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and Transunion. This credit report will detail your credit history including all current and past lines of credit, credit inquiries, addresses, jobs, and possibly other public record information. To get your free credit report, visit www.annualcreditreport.com

Why Check Your Free Credit Report

It’s important to know what is on your credit report regularly to avoid inaccurate reporting, fraud, or identity theft. If you notice something inaccurate or possibly fraudulent, these should be reported immediately to avoid any further damage to your credit. In the case of suspected identity theft, a police report should also be filed. Information about how to report inaccurate or fraudulent information will be included in your credit report. Common Identity Theft Warning Signs:

  • Credit cards or lines of credit that you don’t recognize.
  • Addresses at which you have never lived.
  • Delinquent accounts that don’t belong to you.
  • Names of employers for whom you have never worked.

In addition to alerting you to potential fraud, a credit report can inform you of your spending habits and overall debt. This information can be used to determine good spending habits and as an indicator to possible lines of credit.

Understanding Your Free Credit Report

It’s important to note that your free credit report provides a detailed history of your credit, but it does not provide you with your credit score. Your FICO credit score may be obtained for a fee, or there are a number of other services such as Self Lender that offer a credit score for free. These free scores are not your official FICO score, but they will be relatively close and give you a general idea of your financial health.

Below is a list of what you will find on your free annual credit report:

  • All past and current lines of credit including credit cards, auto loans, mortgages, student loans, etc.
  • On-time payment history
  • Debt to credit ratio (i.e. how much you owe versus how much credit you have available)
  • Public records such as liens, judgments, and bankruptcies
  • Delinquent accounts
  • Previous and current addresses
  • Previous and current employers
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