To keep the health of your credit in check, it's not enough to pay your bills on time and maintain a favorable debt-to-income ratio. You also need to review your credit reports regularly to ensure there aren't any issues, like errors or fraud, that could drag down your credit score.
Here's the low-down on why it's key to check your credit report periodically, along with information on how to do that free of charge.
Why check your credit report?
Your credit report is a record of your past behavior with credit. It includes identifying information such as your name, address, and Social Security number, as well as all your credit cards and loans, how much you owe, account status, and more.1 The information contained in your report is what's used to come up with your credit score.
But you don't have just one credit report. There are several credit reporting agencies that independently track your credit history and report your information. So the information on one bureau's credit report could be slightly different than another.
Did you know you have more than one credit report? There are three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
Where to get your credit reports for free
Though there are a ton of websites that claim to offer credit reports for free, there's only one that's federally authorized to do so. That site is annualcreditreport.com.5 Through this website, you can request your credit report from all three major credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — once per year at no cost. You can also call 1-877-322-8228 to request your reports.6
How often to check your credit reports
Since you can only request each report for free once per year, consider staggering your requests throughout the year rather than getting all three at once.
For example, you can request your Experian report in February to see how your credit is faring after the holiday shopping rush.
In July or August, pull your Equifax report and check that things are still in good shape after summer vacation.
Finally, request your TransUnion report in the late fall to perform a final review for the year.
The schedule you choose is up to you — the goal is to be strategic and space it out over the year, reviewing your reports at times when there's a higher chance of fraud or credit slip-ups. But the main point is to check your reports, period. If you make it a habit, your credit will benefit.
This content is general in nature and does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.
“What's in my credit report?" MyFICO, accessed November 14, 2018.
“Effects of Bad Credit and Legal Considerations," HG.org, accessed November 14, 2018.
Casey Bond, "How Often Should I Check My Credit Report?" U.S. News & World Report, accessed October 19, 2018.
Consumer Reports, "The Secret Score Behind Your Rates," accessed November 15, 2018.
AnnualCreditReport.com, accessed November 14, 2018.
Free Credit Reports, FTC, accessed November 14, 2018.
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