Your credit report is the most important financial record in your life. It’s your responsibility to understand it properly and know what’s inside of it.
When did you check your credit report for the last time? Do it now, it’s free.
On this page we answer the most important questions related to credit reports.
Access Your Credit Report
Why is a credit report important?
For Americans, no financial document is as important as your credit report. Information on your credit report determines how much you can borrow and at what rates. It may influence your ability to get a job, rent an apartment, or access low cost insurance.
Need more convincing? Here are three reasons you should check your credit report at least once a year.
- Your credit report may help you resolve identity theft issues.
- Your credit report can help you develop a debt payoff strategy.
- Someone else’s irresponsible credit behavior may hurt your credit. You need to know about that.
Unfortunately, only 10% of eligible people check their credit report.
Do I have to pay for my credit report?
Many people think you have to pay for a credit report. In fact, only 15.9 Million consumers checked their credit for free, but 26 Million paid to check their credit.
You don’t have to pay for your credit report. Each of the three major credit reporting agencies will give you a free copy of your credit report every year at annualcreditreport.com.
Who can access my credit report?
Nobody can access your credit report without your permission. However, you may be surprised how often you agree to give businesses access. Cell phone companies, insurance companies, and lenders will almost always request a copy of your credit report before they provide service to you. Landlords and employers sometimes ask for a copy of your report before they sign contracts with you.
Will checking my credit hurt my credit score?
No. Checking your credit will not hurt your credit score. When you check your own credit report, the credit bureaus consider it a ‘soft pull’ instead of a ‘hard inquiry.’
A hard credit inquiry indicates that you applied for a new loan. This temporarily dampens your credit score. On the other hand, a soft pull has no effect on your credit score.
What happens if I can’t get my credit report online?
Sometimes credit bureaus won’t release your credit report through AnnualCreditReport.com. This happens when you hit a digital security impasse. Young people with thin credit files, or people who recently moved are the most likely to hit the security wall.
Don’t worry, you can request your credit report by mail. Fill out this Annual Credit Report Request form. And mail it to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
Your request will be processed within 15 days.
Do my spouse and I have the same credit report?
You and your spouse do not have the same credit report. You may share some information, but the reports will differ. What does that mean? A husband and wife may have co-signed a mortgage. Both will see the same record of payments on their individual credit reports.
However, that same couple probably will not have matching credit card entries on their credit report. It’s rare to open up a joint credit account. Because of that, both husband and wife will have different credit card behavior on their credit report.
I know my credit score. Do I have to check my credit report?
Even if you know your credit score, you need to check your credit report at least once per year.
Checking your credit report may reveal inquiries for loans that you didn’t apply for. You might see balances on credit cards you didn’t use. These are evidence of identity fraud. The faster you stop identity fraud, the easier it is to clean up. You might also be surprised to see a medical or utility bill in collections.
Don’t find any of those? Good. Then, checking your credit report offers peace of mind that you’re on the right track.
What’s the difference between a credit score and a credit report?
Your credit report is simply a record of your credit history. It contains positive information like on time payments, and negative information like items in collections. A credit report is a neutral document; it shows a record of your behavior.
Credit scores don’t weigh different types of information differently. Banks use credit scores to decide how much they will lend to you and at what rate.
If you’re interested in improving your credit score, we can show you how.
What are the three credit bureuas?
|Equifax||P.O. Box 105069
|Experian||P.O. Box 9554
|TransUnion||Fraud Victim Assistance Department
P.O. Box 2000
The credit reporting bureaus are private companies that compile and manage consumer credit information. Banks pay credit reporting agencies for information about customers who want a loan. Consumers rely on the credit reporting agencies to compile a fair and accurate credit report.
Each credit reporting agency keeps a unique record of your credit. Your credit report at each company will look a little different.
What if I have a problem with the credit reporting agencies?
The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives all people the right to a fair and accurate credit report. But, you might still struggle to convince the credit reporting agencies that your dispute is valid.
In cases like this, escalate your dispute to your original creditor. If possible, meet with a banker to explain the situation. Request that they reach out to the credit reporting agencies to remove false information removed from your credit report.
If your creditor isn’t local, send a dispute letter to your creditor via certified mail. Your creditor should send you a response that you can forward to the credit reporting agencies.
Once you get a response, the credit bureaus should work with you. If problems persist, you can file a complaint through the Consumer Federal Protection Bureau.
Credit Report Errors
Will my credit report help me improve my credit?
Checking your credit report won’t directly help fix your credit. It will give you an idea of where you need to improve. When you look at your credit report, ask these four questions:
- Are my credit card balances higher than 30% of available credit?
- Do I have a history of late payments? How can I fix that?
- Could I use a pay for delete strategy for collections items?
- Am I applying for too many loans?
How do I fix errors on my credit report?
If you find errors on your credit report, you can dispute your errors through all three credit reporting agencies. As long as you have proof of the error, the credit reporting agencies will often fix the error within a few days.
You only have to win a dispute at one credit reporting agency. They should share the information with the other two credit reporting agencies.
How long will negative information stay on my credit report?
Most negative information stays on your credit report for 7-10 years.
- Closed accounts, paid as agreed – 10 Years
- Closed accounts, not paid as agreed – 7 years from closing
- Late payments – 7 years
- Collections – 7 Years from date of first late payment
- Medical Bills – 7 Years from date of collections
- Judgements – 7 Years
- Tax Liens – 7 Years from when they are paid.
- Repossessions – 7 Years from date of first late payment
- Hard Credit Inquiries – 24 months
- Unpaid Tax Liens – Indefinitely
- Chapter 7 Bankruptcy – 7 years from filing
- Chapter 11 Bankruptcy – 7 years from filing
- Non-discharged or dismissed Chapter 13 Bankruptcy – 10 years from filing
- Discharged Chapter 13 Bankruptcy – 7 years from filing
Why is the collections debt still on my credit report?
If you’re serious about cleaning up your credit, you may have settled a debt with a collections agent. But it’s still on your report. Why?
Paying off a collections debt isn’t the same as removing it. Your creditor must agree to remove the debt, or it will stay on your credit report for 7 years. After seven years, the credit reporting agencies will remove the collections debt from your credit report.
You may succeed in removing the collections debt before seven years passes. However, you shouldn’t work too hard on that. The longer ago the collections happened, the less of an effect it has on your credit score.
Prevent ID theft & fraud
Can someone else hurt my credit report?
Everybody has a personal credit report, but other people can influence your credit report. This can be both positive and negative. Someone else can hurt you when:
- You co-signed a loan, and the other person defaults.
- The primary holder of a credit card makes a late payment or uses too much debt.
Someone else can help your credit when:
- They make timely payments on a co-signed loan.
- The primary holder of a credit card keeps credit utilization low.
If you don’t want someone else to influence your credit report, don’t co-sign loans. Also, remove yourself as an authorized user from all credit cards.
Should I freeze my credit?
Freezing your credit prevents outside parties from looking at your credit. Don’t freeze your credit when you’re shopping for loans. It’s also a bad idea to freeze your credit if you plan to start a new job or hunt for a new apartment. Bankers, employers and landlords need to see your credit, but a credit freeze stops them.
In other circumstances, a credit freeze is a smart move. It prevents identity thieves from opening loans in your name.
It costs between $5- $10 to freeze your credit at each of the three credit reporting agencies. When you freeze your credit you must provide personal information such as your address, date of birth and Social Security number.
After the freeze is in place, you will receive a confirmation letter containing a unique password. Keep the PIN or password in a safe place. You will need the password to “thaw” your credit. There is also a fee to thaw your credit.