Why Your Free Annual Credit Report Is Important

By Alexandra Kerr. May 7th 2016

Checking your credit score once a year is a great way to ensure your report is free of errors or identity theft. The three main credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Trans Union and Experian, each offering one free yearly report. These companies can be contacted by phone, mail, online or through third party websites.

Because your credit score is a ranking of your banking, loan and credit card activity, your score reflects your reliability to creditors, lenders, employers and landlords. If you plan to make any large purchases, even if they do not require a loan, your credit score will most likely be checked. A yearly credit report is essential to preventing and resolving human error or illegal activity that may affect your ability to get a loan, buy a house or find a job.

It is important to contact each of the three companies, as your credit score may be different from each. Your score is based on information collected by the credit reporting agencies from banks, lenders, and credit card issuers. The amount of your credit along with the speed and amount with which you paid back your loans or purchases all contribute to your credit score. By checking each of the three credit agencies, you ensure a complete picture of your credit history, and are more likely to notice errors or fraud before a lender, employer or landlord otherwise would.

Late or missed payments, high credit balances, and balances on many credit cards all damage your score. Anyone looking at your credit report will consider this when determining your eligibility for more credit, or a purchase. While your personal credit information is available to be bought for review by persons other than yourself, anyone requesting your credit report must fall into one of these categories:

  • Landlords
  • The government
  • Someone considering giving you a credit card, or credit of some form
  • Employers
  • Insurers

To receive your free yearly report, simply contact the following credit reporting agencies and request your score:

1. Equifax
P.O. Box 105873
Atlanta, GA 30348
(800) 685-1111

2. Trans Union
Consumer Disclosure Center
P.O. Box 1000
Chester, PA 19022
(800) 916-8800 or (800) 888-4213

3. Experian
P.O. Box 2104
Allen, TX 75013-2104
(888) 397-3742

When you contact the credit reporting agencies, you will need to supply personal, identifying information to verify who you are, and why you are requesting the report. You will most likely need to supply your address, social security number and date of birth, along with any other required information. If you plan to request a report by mail, verify with each agency what they require to release your report.

Checking your own credit report will not lower your score, and knowing where you rank is essential. Don't work hard to maintain good credit, only to find out from a lender or employer that your score disqualifies you from a loan or job. Monitor your score and activity at least once a year to prevent mishaps and ensure your credit history is accurately portrayed in your report and score.

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