A credit report is one of the best ways to get a comprehensive look at your credit history, including to monitor for potential identity theft, even discover accounts you thought were closed that are still open.
We consumers now have the right to get a FREE credit report every week, through April 2021.
It’s a good idea to do now, as you are working on your 2020 federal income taxes, due on April 15.
The rule has been changed from one FREE credit report every 12 months to one a week because of the pandemic, reflecting how rapidly our finances have been changing recently.
That’s one FREE credit report each week from each of the three major nationwide credit reporting companies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
You should check each one periodically, because they have different information.
It may be too much to do it weekly, but you should check at least one of them every month – and also check your credit card statements for fraudulent charges..
Equifax, Experian and TransUnion are the credit reporting agencies that banks use for deciding whether to give you a mortgage or credit card, auto dealers use to decide whether to give you a new car loan, even restaurants and food delivery services use to decide whether to give you access to their auto-pay app system.
Simply, you should have the right to see what they see – along with the opportunity to correct any misinformation.
Your right to see your credit report is guaranteed by Federal law, under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act.
You can verify this by visiting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s website.
Where to get a FREE credit report
AnnualCreditReport.com is the central clearing house for all three credit reporting companies.
You can request the FREE reports one at a time or all three at once.
You can also request a credit report by phone at 1-877-322-8228 or by mail — click here.
Online requests are immediate. It can take two weeks or more to process your request by mail or phone.
Note that the credit report does not include your credit score. That’s a whole different beast. Many credit card issuers will tell you that, including Citibank.
It’s quick and easy. You can review your free credit report online within minutes.
What to look for in your FREE credit report
These tips are from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau:
When reviewing your credit report, check that it contains only items about you. Be sure to look for information that is inaccurate or incomplete.
Some common errors in credit reports are:
- Errors made to your identity information (wrong name, phone number, address)
- Accounts belonging to another person with the same or a similar name as yours (this mixing of two consumers’ information in a single file is called a mixed file)
- Incorrect accounts resulting from identity theft
Incorrect reporting of account status
- Closed accounts reported as open
- You are reported as the owner of the account, when you are actually just an authorized user
- Accounts that are incorrectly reported as late or delinquent
- Incorrect date of last payment, date opened, or date of first delinquency
- Same debt listed more than once (possibly with different names)
Data management errors
- Reinsertion of incorrect information after it was corrected
- Accounts that appear multiple times with different creditors listed (especially in the case of delinquent accounts or accounts in collections)
- Accounts with an incorrect current balance
- Accounts with an incorrect credit limit
If you find errors, you should contact the credit reporting company who sent you the report, and the creditor or company that provided the information (called the “furnisher” of the information).
Your credit report includes directions about how to dispute inaccurate or incomplete information or you can use our sample dispute letters for and
NYC on the Cheap Publisher/Managing Editor Evelyn Kanter
is a former investigative consumer reporter at ABC News and CBS News in New York,
and has been reporting on consumer rights and rip-offs, dangerous products and best buys for more than 30 years.