Your credit report is the key tool companies use to determine your creditworthiness. An excellent credit report helps you to get approval for financing as well as the best possible rates and terms. Obtaining a copy of your credit report can allow you to correct any errors and ensure that you have not become a victim of identity theft.
Free Annual Credit Report
The 2003 Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act allows you to obtain a free copy of your credit reports each year. There are three major credit bureaus: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian, each of which prepares its own report. It is important to obtain your free annual copy of each report, as they may differ.
The only website that is currently authorized to provide free credit reports is www.annualcreditreport.com. This site allows you to, upon proper verification of your identity, view and print your credit reports directly from your computer. You may order all three reports simultaneously, or spread them out throughout the year. Remember that you are only entitled to one free copy of each report each year.
By Mail or Telephone
To order a copy of your credit reports by mail or telephone, contact each credit bureau separately. All three maintain individual websites that provide more information.
Other Ways to Obtain a Free Report
If a creditor, insuror, landlord or employer takes adverse action against you based on information in your credit report, they must notify you of this, and you may request a free copy of your credit report, provided that you request the report within 60 days. You are only entitled to a free report from the credit bureau that was the source of the information used to take the adverse action.
You are also entitled to a free report if:
- you are unemployed and plan to apply for work within 60 days
- you have been a victim of identity theft and have placed a fraud alert on your credit file
- your files contains inaccuracies due to fraud
- you are on public assistance
Should you require an additional copy of your credit report before 12 months have passed, you can request copies from each credit bureau for a fee. California residents, for example, can be charged no more than $8.00. The fee can vary from state to state due to state laws. However, you are entitled to another free copy under circumstances.
If you find an error on your credit report, you should contact the credit bureau that issued the report directly, in writing. It is best to send your communication by certified mail, return receipt requested, in order to document the date of your communication. Send a written statement along with copies of documents that support your position. The matter will then be investigated and resolved by the credit bureau.
The Bottom Line
Your credit report is a very important tool in determining your creditworthiness. Take advantage of the ability to obtain a free annual report from each credit bureau in order to check for errors and ensure that you have not been a victim of identity theft. Free reports may be ordered online, by mail or by phone, allowing you to select the process that is best for you.