If you’re considering taking out a loan, you’ve probably started to wonder about your credit score and if you are a creditworthy candidate. Your credit report can provide a lot of useful information on your credit health, but 50% of adults in the U.S. have not checked their credit report or score in the last six months.1
In this article, learn what information is on your credit reports and how to get one from each bureau.
What is a Credit Report?
A credit report is a document provided by a credit bureau. It contains financial information, such as your credit card debt, current and past installment loans, and more. Reports show your entire financial history, such as how much debt you have, your credit card limits, how long you’ve had a certain credit account, and so on.
Your credit report not only shows you important insight into your finances but it also makes it possible for lenders to check whether you’re eligible for a loan and financially capable of repaying your debt.
What Do I Need if I Want to Get a Free Credit Report?
Receiving a free credit report is not complicated. In fact, you probably already have everything you need to get free credit reports from all three credit bureaus. The three major bureaus are TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. They each provide a free report every 12 months to every consumer in the U.S.
To get your credit report, you need to provide your:
- Date of birth
- Social Security Number
- Your previous address (if applicable).
How Do I Obtain a Free Credit Report From a Credit Bureau?
Obtaining a free report is essential for your personal finances. The nationwide credit bureaus offer free credit reports to consumers.
Suppose you already got your free Equifax credit report but want to check it again due to an unexpected decrease in your credit score. In that case, there are alternative ways to get your credit reports.
Learn how to get your free credit reports below.
|Online||1. Visit the official website for free annual credit reports.|
2. Fill out the required information.
3. Verify your identity.
4. Download your credit reports.
|Equifax, Experian, TransUnion||Once a year||Free|
|Phone||1. Dial the toll-free number for free annual credit reports.|
2. Provide the necessary information.
3. Verify your identity.
4. Wait for the report to be mailed to you.
|Equifax, Experian, TransUnion||Once a year||Free|
|1. Download and fill out the Annual Credit Report Request form.|
2. Mail the form to the specified address.
3. Wait for the report to be mailed to you.
|Equifax, Experian, TransUnion||Once a year||Free|
|Direct from Agencies||1. Visit the individual websites of the three credit bureaus.|
2. Follow their specific procedures for obtaining a report.
|Equifax, Experian, TransUnion||Varies||May incur a fee|
|Credit Monitoring Services||1. Sign up for a credit monitoring service.|
2. Access your credit reports through the service’s platform.
|Varies, but often includes at least one of the three bureaus.||Varies||May incur a monthly or annual fee|
What Do I Need Free Credit Reports For?
It can be helpful to review your credit report before going to a bank or talking to an online lender about a loan. It’s not uncommon for there to be errors in your report that will potentially affect your credit score and trustworthiness. Report errors can also affect your lender’s decision whether to approve your loan application.
If you want to check your current credit score for a personal bank loan, consider checking to see if your credit card company provides free FICO scores.
What Does a Credit Report Look Like?
Each credit report has five different sections. The first part contains your personal information, such as your name, current address, previous address, date of birth, etc. The second part shows your credit history, including your accounts, your current and highest balance, etc.
Any bankruptcies, tax liens, or other legal matters will appear in the third section of your credit report. If you’ve taken out a joint loan with your spouse, for example, their name will also show on your report.
New loan or credit card applications submitted within the last 24 months, called hard inquiries, are listed in the fourth section of the report. You’ll also find their expiration dates there. It’s a good idea to see what kind of personal loan you can get with an 850 credit score or lower to avoid too many hard inquiries.
Soft inquiries, which don’t affect your credit score, are listed in the fifth section; these refer to third-party requests to see your credit report. They may have come from an employer, as mentioned before, or from a lender or an insurance company.
Does Getting a Credit Report Affect My Credit Score?
If you’ve decided to submit a request to see your credit report, you might be wondering whether it will affect your credit score. And if so, to what extent?
Receiving your credit report and checking your score and other information won’t negatively affect your credit score. However, as mentioned in the previous section, there are soft and hard inquiries.
Asking for your own credit report is an example of a soft inquiry. Another example is when a company reviews your lending account. This type of inquiry does appear on your credit report for up to two years, but it doesn’t affect your credit score.
A hard credit inquiry can negatively affect your credit score. However, for large purchases, such as for a house or mortgage, you can feel comfortable looking around for the best offer since, typically, all loan requests you make between 14 and 45 days are counted as one single hard inquiry.
The Importance of a Credit Report
Your credit report is an important tool. Lenders and many other institutions or individuals will typically check your credit report to check your creditworthiness for buying a home, renting an apartment, buying a car, getting the job you’ve applied for, etc.
It’s not always easy to keep track of everything that’s contained within your credit report, and checking it once in a while can help you maintain healthy financial habits or spot any errors that have occurred. You can receive a copy of your credit report in a few easy steps, and it doesn’t take more than a couple of minutes.
How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
It’s critical to protect your personal information, but unfortunately, identity theft is on the rise. But there are steps you can take to protect yourself from identity theft, such as creating strong passwords and monitoring your free credit reports annually. Take a look at some helpful tips below.
- Secure Passwords — Use strong, unique passwords for all your online accounts to make it more challenging for hackers to gain unauthorized access. Consider using a password manager to store your strong passwords if you have trouble remembering them.
- Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) — Enable 2FA on online accounts that offer this feature, especially for financial and email accounts. Using 2FA adds an extra layer of security by requiring two forms of identification if someone tries to log on from a different device or network.
- Monitor Credit Reports — Take advantage of your free credit reports from the three credit reporting agencies to monitor for any unauthorized activities. Early detection of suspicious activity can help you take corrective action quickly.
- Shred Sensitive Documents — Shred bank statements, medical records, and other sensitive documents before disposing of them to prevent thieves from obtaining your personal data.
- Secure Your Mailbox — Use a locking mailbox or a P.O. Box to secure your mail to prevent theft of sensitive information.
- Be Cautious with Social Media — Limit the personal information you share on social media platforms so there is less data for thieves to exploit.
- Use Secure Wi-Fi — Always use secure and trusted Wi-Fi networks, especially when accessing sensitive information. If you have to use unsecured Wi-Fi, avoid accessing sensitive information, such as your bank account.
- Keep Software Updated — Regularly update your computer, smartphone, and software applications because most updates include security patches that fix vulnerabilities.
- Review Bank Statements — Regularly review your bank and credit card statements for unauthorized transactions. Remember that some financial institutions issue refunds for fraudulent transactions if you report them within a reasonable period.
- Freeze Your Credit — Consider freezing your credit with the nationwide credit bureaus if you suspect your data is at risk to prevent unauthorized new account openings.
What to Do if Your Credit Report is Compromised
Suppose you check your Equifax credit report and notice that there are new accounts you did not open. That may be a sign that your credit report is compromised! Don’t panic, as there are steps you can take to minimize the damage.
Contact the Credit Bureau
If you notice fraudulent activity on one or more credit reports, you can contact the credit bureaus. Each credit bureau has a customer service line that you can call to speak with an agent. Inform them of the issue, and they can provide suggested steps.
- Equifax — 1-800-685-1111
- Experian — 1-888-397-3742
- TransUnion — 1-888-909-8872
Report the Fraudulent Activity
It’s important to report scams, fraud, and bad business practices to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You can make a report at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. The FTC uses reports to investigate and prevent future fraud.
Dispute the Error on Your Credit Report
File a dispute with the credit bureau that has the affected credit report to dispute any errors or unauthorized accounts. Every credit bureau has an online credit dispute form on their official website that you can use to correct your credit report.2
Where Can I Find My Credit Score?
Your credit score is not included in a free credit report, but there are several ways to view your current credit score:
- Credit Card Statements — Some credit card companies provide free credit scores on your monthly statement.
- Financial Institutions — Your bank or credit union may offer free credit scores to their customers.
- Online Services — Various online platforms offer free or paid access to your credit score.
- Direct from Credit Bureaus — You can also pay to view your credit scores directly from the three credit reporting agencies.
- Loan Statements — If you’ve recently applied for a loan, the lender may have provided you with your credit score.
Where Can I Get Help To Improve My Credit Score?
Improving your credit score is a long-term commitment, but there are resources available to help you:
- Use non-profit credit counseling services
- Talk to a financial advisor
- Seek free online resources
- Use credit monitoring services
- Read books on improving credit scores
- Take financial courses
Frequently Asked Questions About Credit Reports
Reading and interpreting your credit report can be challenging if you’re not familiar with the terms used. Your credit report is divided into sections that include personal information, credit history, and inquiries. Understanding each section helps you better manage your credit accounts and spot any inaccuracies.
If you find errors on your credit report, it’s crucial to dispute them as soon as possible. You can file a dispute online, by mail, or over the phone with the credit reporting agencies. For example, if you find an error on your Equifax credit report, you can contact Equifax directly to initiate the dispute process.
If you find errors, you should contact the credit reporting agencies directly. The three credit reporting agencies are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. They are responsible for correcting inaccuracies in your report.
Credit reports provide a detailed history of your credit accounts, payment history, and other financial behaviors. Credit scores, on the other hand, are numerical representations of your creditworthiness, calculated based on the information in your credit reports.
A good credit score generally ranges from 700 to 850. You can check your credit score through various online platforms, some credit card companies, or directly from the credit bureaus. Knowing your credit score is essential for understanding your financial standing.
It’s advisable to review your credit report at least annually. You are entitled to free annual credit reports from each of the three credit reporting companies. Regular monitoring helps you catch errors and understand your financial behavior better.
Improving your credit score involves several steps, such as paying your bills on time, reducing debt, and maintaining low credit card balances. You can also diversify your credit accounts to show that you can manage different types of credit responsibly.
Additional Thoughts from CreditNinja on Getting Your Credit Report
It’s critical to request your free credit report from each credit bureau. Free reports help you keep tabs on your creditworthiness. Errors and fraudulent activity on your credit report can result in denied credit and a lower credit score.
At CreditNinja, we strive to provide accessible financial literature. That’s why we have an online blog with free resources on various topics. If you are looking for online loans that have competitive interest rates, consider applying for one of our personal installment loans!