If you are applying for a loan or credit, records of your previous dealings with someone else's money are vital.
Whether you get that credit card may depend on a network of credit reporting agencies that either share information with, or are owned by, three major credit bureaus. Credit reports are critical factors in credit scoring systems that lenders use to issue credit cards, as well as mortgages or other loans.
So, if you're considering making a major financial move, it's a good idea to check your credit report to know where you stand. That way you can be aware of, and if necessary take care of, problems before they derail your plans.
If you find problems, or if potential creditors discover them, take steps to rebuild damaged credit and clean up that record.
If you've made mistakes in paying previous loans, bounced checks, made late payments or had other problems, you may still be able to reduce the amount of damage they will do to your credit with explanations or some basic repair.
Getting your credit report
Obtaining copies of your credit reports is easy. The 2003 Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act guarantees everyone one free credit report from each of the main credit reporting agencies -- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion -- per year.
You must request your free credit reports through a centralized source. To order online, visit annualcreditreport.com. By phone, call (877) 322-8228. Or you may complete the form on the back of the Annual Credit Report Request brochure and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105283, Atlanta, GA, 30348-5283.
2 more ways to receive a free copy of your credit report
- If you applied for a loan and were turned down, you can request a copy by writing the correct credit bureau within 60 days of the rejection. With your request, you should include a copy of the declined loan application.
- You can also get a free report if you are unemployed, planning to apply for a job in the next 60 days, receiving public welfare assistance or believe the credit file contains mistakes resulting from fraud.
If you wish to purchase your credit report (beyond your free copies) ... request a copy from each of the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.