If you plan to apply for a mortgage, car loan, credit card or consolidation loan, then you will need to know what is in your credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus. These include TransUnion, Equifax and Experian and each keeps a detailed record of your current and past debts, payment history, along with any information on public record, which may include foreclosures, bankruptcies or judgements.
Each of your credit reports from the aforementioned bureaus will also feature a numeric score, which is what many lenders refer to when determining your interest rate on a new loan. This number, known as a FICO score, is calculated based on a number of factors that will help potential lenders determine your credit worthiness. Your debt to income ratio, balance to credit limit ratio and the number of revolving credit accounts are all taken into consideration when tallying your FICO score. In addition, any bankruptcy or other negative presence will cause your score to be lowered.
Every 12 months, an individual is permitted to request a free copy of their credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus as listed above. There are a number of websites that promise to give consumers free credit reports, but there is almost always some type of a catch to the offer. Among them, enrolling in a trial program or purchasing a product. However, there is one website that is dedicated to offering free credit reports with no cost or obligation to the consumer. Once each year, individuals can visit AnnualCreditReport.com and gain instant online access to one or all of their credit reports at no cost. The basic credit report is free, but the FICO score will not be included unless an additional fee is paid to access that information.
In addition to requesting free credit reports on an annual basis, individuals are eligible to receive a free copy of their file if they have recently been denied credit. This process can be completed by either writing or calling the credit reporting agency after receiving a denial of credit from the lender. Typically, a copy of the credit report will arrive by mail within 7-10 days.
Not every consumer realizes how important it is to keep a close eye on their credit reports, but it is one of the most critical parts of maintaining a healthy credit file and preventing identity theft. It is recommended that individuals check their credit reports every six months and dispute anything that is listed incorrectly, such as addresses, inaccurate reporting of payment histories, account status, etc. After receiving a dispute, the credit bureau will begin an investigation in order to resolve the matter amicably. It is very important that everyone make sure their credit reports are accurate as, quite often, they are the largest determining factor of any loan request.