Are You Checking Your Credit Reports Often Enough?
Your credit report is a detailed log of all of your lines of credit and credit-based activitly, like taking out a mortgage loan or opening a credit card. There are three credit bureaus, each of which create their own report — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — and use it to help lenders decide whether you’re a good candidate for credit.
These credit reports can have a significant impact on your overall financial picture. With good credit, you may be able to secure lower interest rates on financing and save money every month. Good credit can make it easier to get approved for the things you need, too, like an apartment lease, mortgage, or auto loan.
Because your credit reports are so important, it can be a big deal when mistakes and errors happen. If a credit reporting mistake occurs, it could cost you more money or make it difficult to secure housing, transportation, and sometimes even job opportunities.
Here’s the good news. You have rights when it comes to credit reporting. Namely, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) gives you the right to expect fair and accurate information to show up on your credit reports.
But you also have responsibilities under the FCRA. If mistakes occur (and they often do), it’s up to you to contact the credit bureaus with a dispute. But first, you’ll probably need to check copies of all three of your credit reports to find out what’s on them.
How often should I check my credit report?
Credit reporting errors happen more frequently than many people realize. A Federal Trade Commission study found that one in five Americans has an error on a credit report.
The best way to discover whether you have credit reporting errors is to check your three reports from Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. The FCRA gives you the right to claim a free copy of each of your credit reports from all three credit bureaus once every 12 months. To exercise this right, visit AnnualCreditReport.com.
But if you want to make sure that your credit reports stay accurate, checking them once every 12 months isn’t nearly enough. You should check your credit reports at least once a quarter, and once a month is probably best.
Where can I check my credit report?
When you plan to check your credit reports quarterly or monthly, you’ll need to find other ways to access your information. While AnnualCreditReport.com is a great place to access your reports, the number of free reports you may be able to claim each year is limited to one from each bureau.
You can also check some version of your credit reports through:
- Credit Karma: free credit reports and scores from Equifax and TransUnion
- Experian: free Experian credit report with available upgrades
- My Credit Guide from American Express: free credit report and score from TransUnion, whether or not you’re an Amex cardholder
- myEquifax: free Equifax credit reports per year; additional reports and services may be available for a fee
- Credit.com: free Experian credit report snapshot
- Bankrate: free TransUnion credit report and score
In addition to the resources above, you may be entitled to more free credit reports under the following circumstances:
- You’re a victim of identity theft
- You receive public assistance
- You’re unemployed
- You were denied for credit or insurance in the last 60 days
All three of the major credit reporting agencies also provide free electronic credit monitoring services to active-duty service members and National Guard members as of October 31, 2019.