Your credit report is basically like your resume, but for your credit history. It lays out all of your past and current accounts. It is the basis for your credit score, and determines whether it is high or low. And your credit score can then impact your borrowing power and interest rates. That is why it’s very important for you to pull your credit report at least once a year.
What is included in your credit report:
- Past loans (even those you’ve paid off)
- Closed credit cards
- Current loans
- Open credit card accounts
- Payment history – both good and bad
Why you should check your credit report regularly
Identity theft is becoming fairly common these days. If someone gets a hold of your name and social security number, they can open accounts in your name. If they don’t pay back those accounts at all, or on time, your credit score can be seriously damaged.
The faster you become aware of these issues, the easier it will be to get them taken care of.
And then sometimes, creditors just don’t report information correctly, so there can be errors on your report. In fact, according to a Federal Trade Commission study, 1 in 4 consumers found errors on their credit report. The faster you become aware of these issues, the easier it will be to get them taken care of. Ultimately, you need to be fully informed about your credit history if you want to be financially stable.
Where you can get your credit report:
You CAN get your credit report for free! (Just not at freecreditreport.com.) To get your actual free credit report, go to annualcreditreport.com and you are guaranteed one free report from each of the three credit bureaus each year. I like to get a copy of my credit report three times a year – once from each bureau.
Potential errors to look out for:
- Incorrect name
- Addresses you’ve never lived at
- Incorrect employer information
- A credit card or loan that you didn’t open
- A paid off account that is not listed as paid off
- A late payment that is more than 7 years old (negative marks are supposed to be removed from your credit report after 7 years)
How to dispute errors on your credit report:
- Pull your credit report regularly
- Read through your report from the beginning to the end
- Identify any information that shouldn’t be there – like a credit card you know you didn’t open, or an outstanding electricity bill that you definitely paid
- Determine if you can handle an issue through the creditor – if you’ve paid off a bill but it’s still listed as unpaid, call the credit company first to see if they can fix it
- If deemed necessary, contact the credit bureau directly. You can file a dispute online through the Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion websites
- Follow up with your dispute. If you don’t hear back within 30 or 45 days, reach out again
For more information on potential errors and how to dispute them, click here.
This article originally appeared on Maggie Germano.