It’s easy to get a free copy of your credit report
You can order a free credit report each year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. They are Experian, Transunion and Equifax. And the only federally authorized website for free credit reports is annualcreditreport.com. You can order online or call 1-877-322-8228.
Although other sites offer free credit reports, they often require you to sign up for a trial of their paid credit monitoring services. If you don’t remember to cancel before the trial period is up, you’ll receive a monthly bill.
Get a free credit report every four months
Even though you can only get a copy of your credit report once a year, remember that there are three nationwide reporting companies. And some of your lenders may not report to every agency, so be sure to check each one.
If you would like to monitor your credit more frequently, try ordering a credit report from a different agency every four months. For instance, you could order your credit report from Experian in January, Transunion in May and Equifax in September. That way you are able to review one of your credit reports every four months.
Protect your identity and save money
Keeping an eye on your credit with a free annual credit report is a great strategy for preventing identity theft. But did you know it could also save you money?
According to a Federal Trade Commission study, about 5% of consumers have errors on their credit reports that could lower their credit score.
A potential lender uses the information found in your credit report to determine the interest rate they will charge you. And a lower credit score might result in a higher than anticipated interest rate on your loan. Simply put, higher interest rates cost you money. A one-half percent higher rate on a mortgage loan could cost you $41.16 per month on a $150,000 loan. That’s almost $500 per year! (30 year fixed, $150,000 loan – 3% vs 3.5%)
Correct errors on your credit report
Name and address errors are very common. Sometimes the information from another person with a similar name gets mixed into your report. However, if you find accounts that are not yours, you may be a victim of identity theft.
You have the right to dispute any information in your credit report. To do that, you will need to contact each individual credit bureau in writing. The dispute process is not that difficult. I found a great sample dispute letter at myfico.com.
Additionally, the Hire Your Money® course offers a sample credit report to demystify the document. Also, the dispute process is explained in detail in the Credit Reports section of the Hire Your Money® course.
By the way, if you’d like to learn more about everyday money matters, consider the Hire Your Money® course. It is a cutting edge, cloud-based interactive course that empowers young people to take command of their money lives. You will be able to access the course on your favorite internet-enabled device. No reading required. Included are presentations about must-know money topics, videos, and downloadable money tools.