Contributed By: Geoff Stam, Director Default Management and Financial Literacy, Office of the Chancellor
As previously discussed, your credit report contains a vast amount of information about your past and present credit transactions. It’s used primarily by potential lenders to evaluate your creditworthiness (ability to borrow). But it can also be looked at by current and potential employers, licensing agencies, and insurance underwriters. If you plan to apply for credit, especially for something significant like a mortgage or a car loan, or for a new job, you will want to get and review a copy of your credit report prior to applying for whatever new credit you are seeking. If looking for a new job, it is important to understand what information a new employer might see if they pull your report. It is very important that you review this information at the very least once every 12 months.
Keep in mind we are ONLY talking about the credit report right now! We will discuss the score in later articles.
You Can See What They See: Getting a Copy of Your Credit Report
Every consumer is entitled to a free credit report every 12 months from each of the three credit bureaus. To get your free annual report, you can contact each of the three credit bureaus individually, or you can contact a centralized source that has been created for this purpose. Besides the annual report, you are also entitled to a free report under the following circumstances:
- A company has taken adverse action against you, such as denying you credit, insurance, or employment (you must request a copy within 60 days of the adverse action)
- You’re unemployed and plan to look for a job within the next 60 days
- You’re on welfare
- Your report is inaccurate because of fraud, including identity theft
You can order your free annual report online at www.annualcreditreport.com, by calling (877) 322-8228, or by completing an Annual Report Request Form and mailing it to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
Alternatively, you can contact each of the three credit bureaus:
Experian National Consumer Assistance Center, P.O. Box 2104, Allen, TX 75013-2104, (888) 397-3742
Trans Union LLC, Consumer Disclosure Center, 1000, Chester, PA 19022, (800) 916-8800
Equifax, Inc., P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374, (800) 685-1111
If you make your request online, you should get access to your report immediately. If you request your report by phone or mail, you should receive it within 15 days.
It is very important to receive a report from all three bureaus because the companies that you do business with and report to the credit agencies may report differently to each bureau. Or, they may only report to one bureau. So it is very important to make sure you see what is on each individual report.
There are many other free or low cost services available such as Credit Karma, for example. Just make sure you understand what information they are providing you as far as reports and from which bureaus they are obtaining them from.