How to Really Get Your Free Credit Report and Why

How to Really Get Your Free Credit Report and Why

Your credit report is really the record of your borrowing and debt repayment history. The report shows where you work and live, how you pay bills, whether you've ever been sued or arrested, or have filed for bankruptcy. The three major credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – collect all this information and sell it to financial institutions and employers.

The information in your credit report is used to calculate your FICO score, a number between 300 and 850 that assesses your credit risk.

So, you can see why it's important that the information in your credit report is accurate. When you're applying for a mortgage, one of the factors lenders consider is your credit score, which is based upon your credit report. Credit reports can contain errors or be inaccurate - even from identity theft - and it's best to resolve errors and delete inaccurate information before applying for credit. While we would love to help, fixing credit report errors is the responsibility of the borrower and the credit reporting agencies.

Everyone in the United States is entitled by law to one free credit report every 12 months from the three agencies. Many heavily marketed services are out there (even with the word "free" in the name), but the agencies have set up ONE website to comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Go to annualcreditreport.com to get your free copy. Many of the other "free credit report" sites are actually selling credit monitoring services for a monthly fee. Only annualcreditreport.com gets you an instant, free credit report with no strings attached.

What to do if you find incorrect information in your credit report

If you find incorrect information in your credit report, contact the bureau and the company that provided the information to them.

Tell the agency in writing what information is wrong and remember to keep a copy of all your correspondence with them. By law, the company must investigate your claim and report back its findings to the credit agency. If the information is incorrect, the company has to notify all three bureaus to fix the issue. If you were unable to solve your dispute with the reporting company, write up your explanation of the dispute, which then must be included in your credit report alongside the negative item.