7 Common Free Credit Report Questions & Answers

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If you’ve been wondering how to get a free credit report or what the heck a credit score is, then you’ve come to the right place. We’re about to run through the seven most frequently asked credit report questions so you can find out everything you need to know about free credit reports.

1. Why Should You Get a Credit Report?

While FICO scores give lenders a fast snapshot of your financial health, your credit report contains much more detailed information. These reports show you the number of accounts you currently have as well as your balances and total credit limit. Credit reports also contain a lot of other detailed information that could accidentally be incorrect. Having access to your report will help you pinpoint any errors so you can contact the credit bureaus to make a correction.

Read over your free credit report carefully and look for any errors or omissions, then have them fixed as soon as possible. It’s always best to get your credit report before you apply for financing, so you can have everything in perfect order in advance. The only way to be sure that your credit score is accurate is by making sure that all of your personal information is right. By obtaining your free credit report, you can make necessary corrections to an error that would have otherwise gotten in the way of your approval.

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2. Where & How to Get Free Credit Report

The US Federal Government passed a law called the Fair Credit Reporting Act in 2003 granting every consumer the right to get one copy of their credit report free of charge each year. You can get a copy of yours at www.annualcreditreport.com, which will show you your credit reports from all three of the major credit bureaus. Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion are the three bureaus that most lenders use to determine your credit health. Simply go to the credit report website and fill in your information to receive an instant copy of all three reports. You can do this once every 12 months at no cost to you.

Another way to get an idea of your credit health is by signing up for accounts online like Credit Karma. Keep in mind that these free credit report websites provide credit monitoring services, but they won’t be able to give you all the details you may need to get an accurate picture of where you stand. Still, it can’t hurt to sign up for services that offer free credit scores on-demand. Monitoring your full credit report along with your scores on a regular basis will help you keep everything in check.

3. When Should You Get a Free Credit Report?

You can pay for your credit report any time, but you’re only entitled to one free credit report per year. With that in mind, how do you know when it’s best to take a closer look at your credit score? If you’re getting ready to apply for a job that requires you to have decent credit, get a copy of your credit report as soon as possible so you can make any necessary corrections. It can take credit bureaus anywhere from a week to a month or longer to make corrections official. Another good time to get free credit reports is before you plan to make a large purchase, such as a home, automobile, or RV. Lenders will perform a “hard pull” to get your credit score, but checking your credit report ahead of time can ensure the information they’re getting is accurate.

You should still get a copy of your free credit report once a year even if you’re not planning to get financing any time soon or looking for a new job that requires it. This will help you maintain your information and get problems corrected on a regular basis, so you’re confident your credit report is right when you decide to look for new credit of any kind in the future.

4. Beware of Fake or Imposter Free Credit Report Websites

The only legitimate credit report website to get a free credit report is located at annualcreditreport.com. Other companies and websites may offer you a report, but it definitely won’t be free, and you may not receive a thorough picture of where you stand. Be wary of any free credit report websites that ask for your credit card information before you can see your report. Other services might be able to give you a basic report, but then they lure you in by asking you to subscribe to a recurring monthly service before they’ll reveal all of your information.

Never click through links in any emails that offer you a credit report or other monitoring service. These could be scams trying to get your private information to steal your identity or to obtain your credit card number to make unauthorized purchases. When in doubt, check with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or your state’s Attorney General office to get a list of verified free credit report websites and credit report providers.

Remember that the best credit report resources come from the three main reporting bureaus. These companies will give you your unique credit report for a small fee, but the results are legitimate and can be used to help you obtain new credit.

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5. What Should I Do If There are Errors on my Credit Report?

Reporting errors can have a negative impact on your credit score, so it’s important to find them and correct them as soon as you can. If you notice something is amiss, call the telephone number listed on your credit report and inform the representative of the error. If the error is something small, they may be able to fix it over the phone. However, major errors, such as an account that isn’t yours or an incorrect credit limit, may need to be corrected in writing.

You will need to notify all three of the major credit reporting bureaus if you happen to find an error. Each one handles errors differently and the correction won’t automatically update to all three. Once the problem is fixed, you can expect to receive confirmation of the correction in writing. Keep this information for your files in case you ever need to submit it to a lender as proof that the correction was made.

6. What if the Reporting Company Won’t Correct the Error?

It’s your right as a consumer to have any errors or omissions corrected on your credit report. Even people with the best credit can run into problems if the bureaus have information that’s inaccurate. If the reporting company refuses to correct the error, you may need to escalate the issue or file a dispute. One way to circumvent problems with the reporting company is to go to the creditor directly. If they’re willing to correct the error on their end, it will eventually be reported to the credit bureaus and reflect on your newly updated credit report.

Problems that go unnoticed, or issues that don’t get fixed, can sometimes result in bad credit scores through no fault of your own. That’s why it’s so important to be diligent and make sure that the reporting companies fix any errors you find as soon as possible. If you still run into an issue with the reporting company, you may need to ask for help from a legal professional.

7. Can Anyone Else See my Credit Report?

You may wonder if anyone else can see your credit report. Most major lenders like banks and other creditors can get access to your report, but only with your express permission.  Even still, most lenders might not be able to see every single piece of information that you can. Overall, most creditors want to see your credit score, but mortgage providers will need to dig deeper to look at repayment history, your total credit limit, and more. Individuals are never allowed to access your credit report without your permission. Legally, companies can only get a copy or look at a basic credit report with your permission. Keep in mind that creditors can see your scores at almost any time, however.

Maintaining the balance between a healthy credit score and an accurate report is crucial. Use online credit monitoring services so you’ll be alerted when anyone attempts to pull your credit report or access your information.

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Stay On Top of Your Credit Report

Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, getting an annual copy of free credit reports helps to put you in control. Monitor your report and your score carefully so you know you’re getting the best options in terms of financing and approval. Stay vigilant with your credit report and get any errors fixed as soon as possible.

The more you know about credit, the more prepared you’ll be when it’s time to get that new credit card, vehicle, or home!

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