Get your free credit report

The Fair Credit Reporting Act was amended late in 2004 to require the three major credit reporting agencies to provide you with a free credit report upon request. It’s a good idea to take advantage of this opportunity, so you can verify the accuracy of the information being kept about you and to correct any mistakes.

You can order the report by mail or by phone (877-322-8228), but the easiest way for most people is via the AnnualCreditReport web site,  (Do not be fooled by similar sounding sites that try to charge a fee for this). In any case you will need to provide personal information, inclu­ding your Social Security number.

What’s included?

The report summarizes the informa­tion in your file, including:

  • Name, address, social security number
  • Summary of all of your accounts (mortgage, loans, credit cards)
  • Detail on the status of each account (when opened, credit lim­it, delinquency, payment history, etc.)

Why bother?You  want  to  make  sure  that  the

information is accurate because it directly affects the availability of credit and the interest rate you will pay. A low score can cost you thousands of dollars in higher interest rates. Note that these free reports do not include your actual credit score. For that you will need to pay a fee.

If you find any errors — and this is not at all unusual — you should report them in writing and the agency must investigate and reply to you and correct any mistakes.

You can request your free reports once every 12 months from Trans­Union, Experian and Equifax. An even better approach is to request one report now, then get your report from the next agency 4 months later and so on. That way you are seeing fresh information three times a year.

Next month: Your credit score