This article was updated March 29, 2021 to reflect new information about credit reports.
Remember getting a report card as a kid? Think about how excited you were to show off your grades to mom and dad (or maybe not) because it reflected your hard work. As an adult, your credit report is an important document that includes important details about your financial history. It's important to check your credit report each year. Learn more about how to request your free credit report and what to look for when reviewing the information on this document.
Your credit score gives lenders an overall picture of how well you're doing in the school of personal finance. But your credit report lists specific information about your financial history — such as information about your credit and payment history. This document describes how you handle your money and the money that is available to you.
We've given you tips about factors that affect your credit score and the basics of what things make up your score. As long as you have a healthy credit score, there's nothing more you need to do, right? Well, let's take a step back and focus on what's on a credit report first.
Your Free Credit Report
Normally, you're entitled to one free credit report every 12 months from each credit reporting agency: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. In an effort to help people increase their financial health, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently announced that consumers are allowed to get a weekly credit report1 from each credit reporting agency until April 20, 2022. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com1 to request your free credit reports.
Once you get your free credit report, take the time to go through this document and make sure that everything is correct. It's important to focus on the details in your report because credit reporting agencies use this information to calculate your credit score. Inaccurate information on your credit report can decrease your credit score.
Please note that credit reporting agencies are not required to give you your credit score for free, just your credit report.
Reporting Errors on Your Credit Report
One of the simplest ways to improve your credit score is to go through your credit report and make sure that everything is accurate. Your report should only contain information about you, meaning there should not be any facts about your family members or spouse listed. If you see information on your credit report that you did not authorize (like accounts that you did not open), this could be a red flag for identity theft. You should investigate any errors on your credit report as soon as possible.
When you're flipping through your report, keep an eye out for these common errors:Accounts that do not belong to you or that you were not an authorized user on
Addresses that you no longer live at
Names of employers you did not work for
Accounts that you closed (if the report says they are still open)
Bankruptcy that is more than 10 years old
If something doesn't look right on your report, you'll need to contact the credit reporting agency and the company that's reporting the incorrect information. You can usually fix any discrepancies by submitting a dispute in writing by mail. Just explain what you think is wrong and provide any copies of documents that might support your case. Learn more about how to dispute an error on your credit report on the Federal Trade Commission's website1.
Beware Of Credit Repair Agencies
If there's something wrong on your credit report, it can take a while to fix the problem. Credit clinics, or places that claim they can clean up your report for a small cost, like to take advantage of this issue. Most of the services that credit repair agencies provide can be done on your own for free.
Credit clinics often end up charging you a great deal of money and, in some cases, they are a front for scams. This doesn't mean that all credit repair agencies are scams, but you need to look out for the warning signs of a potential scam, especially if you are considering giving out your personal information. Signs of a dishonest company include:
- Asking for money before any services are provided (this is illegal)
- A fictitious or non-existent business address
- A guarantee to remove late payments or bankruptcies from a credit report
- Asking you to dispute information on your report that is actually correct
Your Financial Health
Having good credit is the key to your financial future and an important aspect of your financial health. A clean credit report and a good credit score can play a role in a landlord deciding if they want to rent a property to you, your employment, and the rates you pay for loans or insurance. If you have questions about your credit report, the Federal Trade Commission's website is a great resource for frequently asked questions and tips on how to keep your information safe.