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Ways to Save Money: Get Your Free Annual Credit Report

Updated on October 24, 2016
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Jo has been an ITU nurse at the London North West NHS Trust for 14 years. She obtained her RN at University College London Hospital.

Getting A Mortgage or Financial Loan? First Check Your Credit Score


Get Credit Information, Know Your Rights

What is a Credit Expert Report?

"Those who understand interest earns it, those who don't, pay it."


It would be liberating and immensely exhilarating to be able to cut up and dispose of the credit card, give two fingers to the banks and return to the old ways of doing business. Unfortunately, the pleasure would be short lived. We are already on the crazy merry-go-round, and it is near impossible to get off.

Until some clever individual comes up with a better way to manage our hard earn cash, we need to be smart about how we spend our money, and how we manage our debts.

To do this, we need to be aware of the information held in our credit reports, and we need to know how we can improve our credit score to get the best deals, especially on interest rates that will allow us to save money.

A credit report contains detailed information gathered by a Credit Reporting Agency (CRA) on an individual's credit history.

CRAs are profit-making companies, the Information they compile includes where you live, how you pay your bills, any county court judgments against you and if you've been sued or filed for bankruptcy. The CRA then sells this information to creditors, insurers, employers and other businesses to evaluate a loan applicant's creditworthiness and their ability to pay their creditors.

Consumer advocates, advised, that we review our credit reports annually to ensure that the information stored is accurate, complete, verifiable and up to date.

Which Credit Reference Agency

There are three nationwide credit reporting companies authorized to provide free annual credit reports that people are entitled to under the law. There is a central website, a toll-free phone number and mailing address for ordering a free annual report.

Be aware, some sites claim to provide free credit reports, free credit scores or free credit monitoring. However; they are not always what they appear to be. Often, the so-called free product comes with strings attached and may convert to purchase that requires payment at the end of a trial period. If you fail to cancel the product within the trial period, you will be inadvertently agreeing to allow the company to begin charging fees using your credit card details.

The three nationwide U.S. credit reporting companies required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) to provide a free annual copy of an individual's credit report on request are:

  • Experian

  • Equifax

  • TransUnion

The FCRA promotes the accuracy and privacy of the information stored with the credit reporting companies. To order visit, this is the only website that is authorized by federal law to provide free annual credit reports.

The UK sites are:

  • Equifax

  • Experian

  • Callcredit

According to the money experts, we should take the time to manage and improve our credit scores. It is more than just obtaining a mortgage, a loan or a credit card. Your credit score can also affect your mobile phone contract, car insurance, bank account and a lot more.

When we apply for a loan, before the lender, bank or building society will agree to part with their money, they'll first need to know that they will recoup their investment.

Banks need to know whether the individuals to whom they are lending their money, have a good track record when dealing with debt. Most of us have experienced financial difficulties at one time or another, but what's important, is how we managed the debt.

A credit score or credit expert report allows the bank or lender to decide if it is prudent to approve an application for credit, and if so, on what terms. However, each lender will have their secret rating system and will look at the individual's application and previous dealings with the bank, to generate a credit score.

Contrary to what most of us believe, there is no credit blacklist, and we do not have a single credit score, the main CRAs all have different scores. Therefore, it is entirely possible that another may well accept an individual who has been refused credit by one lender.

Get The Best Credit Deals, When You Boost Your Credit Rating


A Good Credit File Can Save You money

"The only way to beat the banks is to make them fight for your business!"

(Scott Bilker)

It is vital to know what information is held in out credit files; this information is used to predict our future behavior based on our history. This information affects whether or not we are allowed to borrow money, take out a mortgage or even get better terms on credit offers. A good credit score can save us money; a high score can improve the chances of qualifying for a 0% credit card deal.

Borrowers with bad records are much more likely to have applications for credit refused or charged exorbitant rates of interest.

Credit reporting agencies store an enormous amount of information on us, some of this information are often wrong, errors can adversely affect our ability to get credit and all the money saving advantages that goes with it, such as:

  • Reward points
  • Cashback
  • Borrow at 0% interest
  • Extra protection on purchases

What can Damage Your Credit Score?

  • Missing a monthly payment, while this may appear to be a minor transgression to most of us, our creditors may beg to differ. They charge a fee for late or missed payments, and may also increase the interest rate. Late payment can be added to credit reports when a payment is more than 30 days late. By making both the payment and late fee before the deadline, damage to an individual's credit record or score can be avoided. Payment history accounts for as much as 35% of our credit score and can impact on a person's ability to get new credit in the future.

  • Late mortgage or credit card payments, one late payment on a mortgage, loan or credit card can affect a credit score negatively, and incur certain penalties, the severity of which, will depend on several other factors. The length of time as discussed above, the longer the account remain in arrears, the more severe the impact on the credit score. Mortgage companies may find it necessary to initiate foreclosure when arrears exceeds 90 days or more. If the debt is not reaffirmed during the foreclosure process, the credit score can drop by as much as 200 points or more to dramatically increase subsequent borrowing cost.

  • Making only minimum payments on credit cards every month

  • Declared bankrupt

  • Enter into an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA)

  • A County Court Judgment against your name

  • Have never borrowed money in the past, therefor have little or no credit history

  • Borrowing only small amounts or diligently pay off credit card bills in full each month (while this may be a prudent way to manage your debts, it is not profitable for lenders)

What is a Credit Score

Credit scoring is about attempting to predict a person's future behavior. However, it's well to remember that they are not set in stone, different lenders may have their own ideas about what is a good credit score, some lenders are more selective than others.

A bad credit history can prevent an applicant from acquiring a loan and can exclude them from the best deals that other borrowers are enjoying. However, there are ways to mend a credit history over a period.

Examples of Credit Scores

Excellent Credit: 750+

Good Credit: 700-749

Fair Credit: 650-699

Poor Credit: 600-649

Bad Credit: Below 599

The approximate make-up of FICO score used by U.S. lenders
The approximate make-up of FICO score used by U.S. lenders | Source

Do You Know Your Credit Score?

How Often Do You Check Your Credit Score?

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Five ways to improve your credit history.

1) Register your current Address on Electoral Roll

Since lenders tend to use the electoral roll to check potential customers name and address, someone applying for a loan, who is not on the electoral roll, will give the impression that they have no credit history and may well be rejected automatically.

2) Make Payments on Time

Manage debts well. Stay within your credit limit and don't miss credit deadlines. If you are unable to make a timely payment, contact your lender and make a request for a smaller, more manageable repayments. Before applying for further credits, first, close any old credit card accounts. Even if there is no money owed, lenders may look at all the available cards before making a decision on an application for credit.

It is prudent to sever all financial ties with previous partners with whom you've shared a joint account, as this could influence the lender's decision. You can do this by making a request from all three credit reference agencies to add an invoice of disassociation to your credit files.

Remember to Sever Financial Ties With Ex-Partners To Improve Your Credit Score

Some Consumer Credit and Debt Statistics From Credit UK

  • At the end of 2013, outstanding credit card debt in the UK averaged £57.4 billion per month
  • As of February 2014, U.K. borrowing was growing at an annual rate of 5.1%, almost 40% of borrowers took advantage of 0% interest offers on balances to manage their cash flow
  • Unsecured consumer debts nearly tripled in the last 20 years, reaching close to £160 billion in November of 2013.
  • Households in the poorest 10% of the country have average debts more than four times their annual income
  • At the end of November 2013, there were 90.5 million debit cards in circulation in the U.K.
  • At the end of November 2013, 75% of all spending in the U.K. retail sector was made using plastic cards.
  • 40% of consumers paid off outstanding balance in full each month or at 0% interest rate
  • The APR or average percentage rate on credit cards had dropped from 17.69% in March 2013, to 11.08% in March 201.
  • As of April 2014, 266 people in the UK were declared insolvent or bankrupt daily
  • In the first quarter of 2014, there were 24,931 individual insolvencies in England and Wales. This Included 5,671 bankruptcies, 6,549 Debt Relief Orders (DROs) and 12,711 Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVAs)

3) Gradually Build A Good Credit History

Without a credit record, companies will finds it difficult to assess an individuals reliability, and are highly unlikely to give them the benefit of the doubt. To build up a credit record it is necessary to borrow money and pay it back on time each and every month.

Some people will find it very difficult to borrow money without a credit record. However, there are credit cards especially aimed at people with bad credits, these cards usually have a higher interest rate attached to them, and should only be used in this case, if the money can be repaid before interest is incurred. This is a good way to benefit from the use of a credit card, while simultaneously repairing a credit record.

4) Check Your Credit Score and Know Why You Were Rejected

Sieve through your credit records to ensure that the information is correct and up to date.

Ensure that any paid court judgments are shown as settled, bankruptcy order that have ended, should say so in the report. Applying elsewhere for credit without investigating, will only increase the chances of rejection, since every credit check is logged. Spacing out applications is always a good idea, lenders may view too many applications in a short period of time as desperation, and can further lessen the chances of a positive outcome.

5) Give Credit Repair Companies a Wide Birth

Credit repair companies can in fact worsen the situation and should be avoided. The Office of Fair Trading warns that the advice and information from these companies may be wrong, similar services can be provided free of charge by other companies. For information on paying off debts look at the government's website.


"Tis against some men's principle to pay interest, and seems against other's interest to pay the principle."

(Benjamin Franklin)

Whether we like it or not, our modern world runs on credit. You may well ask, why we need credit at all since we only get deeper in debt while the banks get richer. It's a fair question, but when we understand how the system works, we can make it work better for us.

Excellent credit rating means better insurance rates, better employment options, cheaper loans, and mortgages. We can benefit from the positive credit. Borrowing can save us money, but only when we use it sensibly. The higher the credit rating, the lower the interest rate.

Since we all use credit, we need to learn how to use it well, and the first step is ensuring that the information in our credit files is accurate, complete and timely. When we know what information is in our records, we can take the appropriate steps to have outdated information and errors removed, only then can we start to improve our credit scores and credit ratings to get the best deals that can help us save money.

A Remarkable Documentary On America's Debts, The Plastic was Fantastic Then The Bubble Burst


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    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      ChitrangadaSharan, thank you for taking a look and for the vote and pin, much appreciated.

      I can see that you and your hubby are very sensible about money matters, I wish you both the best.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 3 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Very useful information on saving money and a well researched article.

      Thankfully both me and my husband are very particular about money management.

      You have made some very valuable points here, which everyone should take care of.

      Thanks, voted up and pinned!

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Hi Audrey, thank you for stopping by, alway nice to see you. My best.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 3 years ago from California

      Very practical article Jo with lots of good info! Enjoy your weekend!!

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Pamela, lovely to see you! I'm glad you found the hub informative, even though you are already on top of it. Thank you for taking a look, much appreciated, my best always.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Nell, I hope this hub will help to remind people to keep an eye on their credit score and report, the information can affect out lives without us even being aware of it. Always a pleasure to see you, my best.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 3 years ago from United States

      This hub has a wealth of great information. It is so important to protect your credit, and I don't check mine often enough. I have excellent credit because I stay out of debt, but I learned to do that over time.

      Awesome hub!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      Really great info Jo on how to check credit ratings, this is one hub that is really going to help people to figure out how to work out their money etc, nell

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      MsDora, always a pleasure! Many thanks for the support.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Voted Up! Thank you Jo, for your very helpful information on credit scores and also helpful instructions on how to improve. Very good presentation!

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Hi Rebecca, I'm so glad you found the information useful. Many thanks for the visit and encouraging comment, my very best to you.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 3 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Fantastic, helpful well-researched info and your graphics are awesome!

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Hi Audrey, yes, we should all get into the habit. Thanks for taking a look, always a pleasure.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 3 years ago from California

      Well done Jo! I should do this more often than I do!

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Flourish, for many marriages these days, it's a case of "till debt do we part."

      I think It's obscene that the poorest and those who are least able to afford it, must pay the highest rates of interest.

      The time for governments to intervene is long overdue. Always a pleasure to see you, take care and best wishes.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Well done, Jo. I look at the numbers of people that you present in your sidebar who are overcommitted on credit cards and can't help but think of the stress they must be experiencing. What a burden, especially at the percentages the cards charge these days. And your point about verifying that you have indeed cut ties with any old partners -- great point! Have a great weekend.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Devika, there's an up side and a down side to having a credit card, if not having one works for you, that's great. I use a debit card for the every day things and found it convenient. But I also have a credit card which I use sparingly and pay off at the end of the month. Have a great weekend and my best as always.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Frank, I hope the younger folks will take the time to read this, it's really tough for them right not. Youngsters are having a hard time buying that elusive first home. Thank you for taking a look, always great to see you, have a lovely weekend.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      I don't have credit cards and don't intend to. Your tips are valuable and most helpful. I always learn something new from your interesting hubs. Take care and have a great weekend.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton

      this will help the younger folks tobusiness.. useful.. and easy to understand.. so concise.. voted up and awesome plus shared :) Frank

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Ruby, I guess some of us learn the hard way, but the important thing is, we do learn. Always a pleasure to see you. Don't work that plastic too hard.:) Have a great weekend and my best to you.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Nadine, sometime the best advice comes from those who have learned from experience, good or bad. However this hub is more about taking common sense measures to keep more of our hard earned cash in our pockets. In answer to your question about whether or not the bank and building societies actually have money or promissory notes, all I know is, if I need money to buy a new vehicle I go to the bank, they provide the means, I get my car and I pay them back with interest. Unfortunately, those people who can least afford to, in desperation, goes to payday lenders, they're given money which they promise to repay, but they are charged an indecent amount of interest, I guess that money is certainly real to them. But I get what you're saying, it's a world of IOUs. Thank you for stopping by, I appreciate the thought-provoking comment. Have a great weekend and my best to you.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 3 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Great info. on credit reports. Glad you listed the reputable ones. Thankfully i pay the entire amount if i used my credit card. In times past i was not always able to do that. Credit card interest rates are too high but what's a little man going to do? Thank you for a well written hub...

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 3 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      When you write about credit, does that mean your are good at paying of your loans and then you are considered a good risk to lent money to? My dream is to have no bank account whatsoever, or to have my own money on a debit card just so I do not have to keep bank notes on me. Your sentence: before the lender, bank or building society will agree to part with their money, I was wondering what money do you mean? So far as I understand how our economic system works, bank or building society do not really have any money, only promissory notes.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Jackie, I'm so glad that you were not left out of pocket, but I quite understand the need to know who they were. There are many fraudsters out there, another reason why it's wise to keep a close eye on our credit files. Some people have had their whole identity stolen and it's a nightmare trying to undo the damage caused.

      It's always a pleasure to see you, take care and best wishes.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      It is important to check your score and credit for sure. A few years back I had two sears accts in places I had never even heard of. Sears did take care of it but it still worries me and makes me wonder if those people who did that are having to pay! Really; I didn't even get to find out who they were! ^+!!

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Shyron, always a pleasure. I have to agree with you about employers having access to applicant's credit report, I can't see the point, except for an unfair disadvantage to the applicant. Unless, someone is applying for a job as a financial adviser or something along those lines. Thank you for reading this, and for the brilliant comment, vote and share, you're spot on. Have a great weekend and my best to you.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 3 years ago from Texas

      Jo, the information in your article is invaluable. I have been receiving my free credit reports for years.

      They are important to me not only because of the listing of who I owe, but anyone who checked my credit score are also listed.

      As for employers, I don't think they should be able to get a person's credit report.

      Voted up UAI and shared.

      Blessings Jo.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Hi Kaili, lovely to see you. Thanks for checking this out and for the great comment. Often, what is affecting a person's credit score can be something simple that can be easily remedied, it's certainly worth while doing the annual checks.

      Have a great weekend and my very best to you.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Kevin, so nice to see you! Thank you for stopping by and for the great comment. You must be one of those sensible people who chose not to get on that particular money train, good for you. I very much appreciate the vote and share. Take care and enjoy the weekend, my best to you.

    • Kaili Bisson profile image

      Kaili Bisson 3 years ago from Canada

      This is great advice and a really well done hub. It is smart to check your score from time to time as there may be things hurting your score that you aren't aware of. Even seeking credit i.e. applying for numerous cards can lower your score. Voted up and more!

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Hi Bill, I do enjoy writing the health hubs, but I also try to do something different now and again. I have written a few articles along this line before. I've written hubs on making money, on saving money, about the energy companies, grocery shopping and Peer-to-Peer lending, if it informs people, I'll write it. :) As always, great to see you, and yes you're so right about building credit, it does take time. Good luck with acquiring your next home, maybe I'll get to see it one day.:)

      Take care and my very best to you.

    • The Examiner-1 profile image

      The Examiner-1 3 years ago

      This was very impressive, and true, Jo. Credit is something which sneaks up on us until the monthly bill comes in. You explained it well and I am glad that you clarified about the credit agencies. Luckily I do not have a card. I voted this up, shared and pinned it.


    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      An interesting topic for you to write about, Jo. I'm used to health articles. Great information, something every consumer should know. We are in the next to last home we will live in....our credit is fine....but that is after a lifetime of building that credit up to a respectable level. Young people should definitely read this hub.

      Have a wonderful weekend my friend.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Faith, thank you for taking a look, it's always lovely to see you and of course, you write such insightful comments, much appreciated. People are very wary about getting credit reports because of the traps set by the unscrupulous sites. It looks like you are on the money, with the free annual reports, well done my friend.

      Loved the new image, you're a true beauty, inside and out. :) Take care and have a wonderful weekend.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      Morning Jo,

      Thanks for sharing all of this sound advice! It is vital that we stay on top of our credit rating and many people do not realize they can get it for free. We usually check our once a year, but with these times here of late, due to so much fraud, we may need to check it even more.

      I know that one way to improve one's credit score is to be sure to pay your bills on time and not during the 30-day grace period as they deem that as late, and it will go against your credit score.

      Voted up +++ tweeted and pinned

      Have a great weekend ahead.