You should check your credit reports and credit score every year.
This is just good ‘ole general information.
Luckily, I can teach you how to check your credit reports and credit score.
So, let’s get started…
Step 1: Know why you need your credit reports and credit score
By checking your reports, you will be able to identify 1) inaccurate information, 2) fraudulent information and 3) take financial inventory of accounts you have open. By getting your credit score, you will know what lenders are looking at in order to determine your creditworthiness.
There are three main reporting agencies that you can get your credit reports from: 1) Experian, 2) Equifax, and 3) TransUnion. Federal law states that you can get your reports once a year for free.
You can get all three at once, or spread it out and get one every four months – it’s up to you. Some people prefer to get them all at once because it’s easier to remember once a year than it is to remember to do it throughout the year. The advantage to doing it throughout the year is that you’ll catch something that’s wrong more quickly if you are looking at a report every four months (verses every twelve).
Step 2: Go to AnnualCreditReport.com
To start the process of getting your reports, go to annualcreditreport.com. This is the one website where you can actually get your credit reports online for free is annualcreditreport.com. So, this is where you want to get your reports every year.
Step 3: Click on “Request your free credit reports”
Click on “request your free credit reports” in the lower left part of your screen — the button is red.
Step 4: Complete the steps to request your credit reports
You’ll be prompted with three steps to apply for your reports. First, you need to fill out a form with your personal information.
a. Fill out a form
Fill out the form with accurate information. If you make mistakes, it’s harder to get your reports online. So, be sure to provide the right info.
b. Pick the report you want (Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion)
Choose which report you’re getting. Start with one and go through the entire process. You’ll repeat it now or in a few months for the other reports, depending on when you’re choosing to get them.
c. Request and review your reports online
At this point, you may get your credit report immediately. Or, you may have to fill out additional information to prove your identity. If you are prompted with the latter, fill out the additional steps to verify who you are, then you should receive your credit report.
d. Then, repeat for each report you want
Once you’ve completed the steps for one report, go back through and complete the steps for the remaining reports. Do this if you are getting all three reports at once. If you’re doing it every few months, then come back and follow the same process for the other reports in a few months.
After this step, you have everything you need for your credit reports. Save the documents and print them out for your records.
Step 5: Get your credit score
Credit scores are based off information from your credit reports. You actually have more than one credit score. Your FICO score is one of the most popular scores used to determine creditworthiness, but there are lots of other credit scores that you have.
For example, a lender could use your VantageScore, which is a score created by all three credit agencies. If this happens, knowing your FICO score wouldn’t be of much use. However, different scoring models typically place you in the same credit range 73%-80% of the time, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This means if you pay for your FICO score and you’re in the “Fair” range, you’re most likely going to be in that range for other scores.
There’s no Federal law that says you get your credit score for free once a year, so unfortunately, you will probably have to pay for it.
You can order your FICO credit score from myfico.com. When you order your score, be aware that there are a lot of options for you to signup for credit monitoring and to pay for your credit reports. You do not have to order any of these products. You can just order your credit score.
You can also order a credit score from any of the three reporting agencies. Usually pricing is anywhere from $15-$25 for your credit score.
Remember that your credit score is a number based on the information taken from your credit reports. Thus, it’s very important for you to order your credit reports and review them annually.
Step 6: Evaluate your credit reports and credit score
Once you have your credit reports and your credit score, you need to review and evaluate them.
When you look at your Credit Reports, pay attention to the following information.
- Personal Information. Analyze your name, address, phone number, social security number, and any other information personally identifiable to you. Look closely to make sure the information is correct.
- Public Records. There is a public records section on your credit report that will have any bankruptcies, law suits, or tax judgements listed. Analyze this information to make sure it’s correct.
- Credit Accounts. All of your debts will be listed in this section. Your payment history will be listed for each open account. You will also see this information for closed accounts for seven years. Make sure this information is correct.
- Inquiries. This section shows when a lender checks your credit.
Make sure you pay attention to the details on your credit reports. If you have any information missing or that is incorrect, you need to report it. Even more important is if you think you have had your identity stolen or see fraudulent information on your reports.
While these numbers vary slightly, in general, you can use the following information below to determine what your FICO score means to a lender.
- Less than 500: Very bad credit
- 500-549: Bad credit
- 550-599: Poor credit
- 600-649: Fair/Average credit
- 650-699: Good credit
- 700-749: Very good credit
- 750 and up: Excellent credit
A Final Note!
It’s important to get your credit reports from all three reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) at least once a year. You can do this for free at annualcreditreport.com. If you want to get your credit score, you will have to pay for it. Remember that you have lots of credit scores, even though the FICO score is the most widely used (you can buy this at myfico.com).
Knowing what information is on your credit reports is important because it helps you know whether your information is being reported correctly, or if you’ve been a victim of identity theft. Checking your credit reports and score is an annual must! 🙂