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How to Get a Free Copy of Your Credit Report

Updated on March 1, 2013

Why You Should Check Your Credit Report

Checking your credit report periodically is crucial to your financial health. Even if you think you have a good credit score and don't plan on borrowing any money soon it's still a good idea to check it.

Why? Two reasons... first, it's very easy for financial institutions or the credit bureaus to make mistakes. You want to catch mistakes as soon as possible so you can keep your credit score in shape. In today's economy, credit is tight, so you want your credit score to be as high as possible, especially if you expect to be borrowing money any time soon.

Second, unfortunately, credit card fraud and identity theft are very common today. The sooner you catch fraud, the easier it will be to fight it.

This lens will show you how to get a free copy of your credit report, how to correct errors, what to do if you become a fraud victim, and much more...

How to Fix, Improve and Protect Your Credit Score

Your Credit Score: How to Fix, Improve, and Protect the 3-Digit Number that Shapes Your Financial Future, 2nd Edition
Your Credit Score: How to Fix, Improve, and Protect the 3-Digit Number that Shapes Your Financial Future, 2nd Edition

"A great credit score can help you finish rich! Liz Pulliam Weston gives solid, easy-to-understand advice about how to improve your credit fast. Read this book and prosper."

 

How To Get Your Free Credit Report

You can view your credit report for free at www.AnnualCreditReport.com. This report does not include your credit score but it can be purchased for $12.

There are actually three credit reporting agencies, and each of them is required to give you one free report per year. That means you can actually get 3 free credit reports each year, by requesting 1 report from each reporting agency. I suggest that you stagger these requests out over several months, rather than requesting from all 3 reporting agencies at once.

Important! AnnualCreditReport.com is the ONLY legitimate website to request your free credit report.

There are many websites that offer a free credit report as part of a promotion, but you generally must sign up for a service to receive your credit report. These services can be much more costly than just purchasing your credit report, so proceed with caution if you sign up with any of these companies.

There are also a lot of scams out there. Be wary of companies that offer to fix your credit or erase your negative credit history. These are generally scams.

New! Get Your Credit Score Free at CreditKarma.com

I recently discovered a website called CreditKarma.com, where you can request your credit score (the actual 3-digit FICO score) for free.

I was concerned that there might be strings attached, so I had to check it out for myself.

The registration process was very quick and easy, and the application to retrieve your credit score was much easier than the process to request your credit report from one of the three reporting agencies.

Credit Karma does not provide a copy of your credit report. They provide your 3-digit FICO credit score only.

Immediately below your score are credit offers from partners of Credit Karma that are based on your credit score. These offers are how Credit Karma pays the bills, so they are necessary and may even be beneficial if you are looking to establish credit or make a purchase soon.

So, while you still need to check your actual credit report at least once a year (to check for fraud and/or errors), if you are just wanting to check up on your credit score, I recommend CreditKarma.com.

Components of a FICO Credit Score

There are five key elements that comprise your FICO score: payment history, outstanding debts, credit history age, inquiries, and account types. Each of these items is given a different weight in the algorithm that determines your FICO score. Payment history is 35% of the score, outstanding debt is 30%, credit history age is 15%, and both inquiries and account types are 10% of your total FICO score.

Now you know what components are included in your credit score. What does each of these include? More importantly, what's considered good and what's bad for each component?

Payment History

Your payment history includes the details of how you've been paying your bills. That is, if you've been paying them at all. Each of your credit accounts reports your payments as on time or late. Late payments are reported as being 30-, 60-, 90-, and 120-days late. After six months of non-payment, many creditors charge-off your account, deeming it as an uncollectible account. The more recent the late payments are, the worse the effect it is on your credit score. Timely monthly payments boost your score in this area.

Outstanding Debts

This portion of your FICO score takes into account the total amount you owe on all your credit accounts. This includes credit cards, student loans, auto loans, mortgages, lines of credit, etc. Not only does the FICO score consider the total amount you owe, it also considers the total credit you have available. This ratio is known as your credit utilization. The higher your credit utilization - meaning the closer your balances are to the limit - the lower your credit score. You should keep credit account balances at or below 30% of the limit.

Credit History Age

The length of time that you have had credit is a determining factor of your FICO score. A longer credit history is better than a shorter one. This is because there is more data to create a pattern of good or bad payments.

Inquiries

Each time a business uses your FICO score to make a credit-based decision about you, an inquiry is made to a credit bureau. This inquiry then appears on your credit report. Multiple inquiries within a relatively short period of time have a negative effect on your FICO score, especially if these are credit card inquiries. Few to no inquiries is better. The good news is that only inquiries from the past two years are factored into your FICO score.

Account Types

When you have several different types of credit accounts - loans and revolving credit - it is better than having a single type of credit account.

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What is Your Biggest Question about Credit Reports and Scores?

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      bintexshah 2 years ago

      It isn't what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.

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      newcreditreport 6 years ago

      Lexington Law also provides a free credit report and analysis. It's helpful to have someone go through your credit report with you to explain what everything means and what can be done to improve your credit score. http://www.lexingtonlaw.com/?tid=1971

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      scoremorecredit 7 years ago

      The credit bureau matches the name, address and other identifying information on the credit applicant with information,how can i get free credit reports? is it safe in getting online credit reports?

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      buildcreditfast44 7 years ago

      is it safe in were going to pass some of our information in credit bureau?