Check Your Credit Report for Free

Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the last several years, you've probably noticed that credit reporting services are being advertised everywhere. But even though a company claims that you can get your credit report or credit score for free, be sure to read the fine print. In many cases, these companies give you a free trial period, and if you don't cancel your subscription, your credit card will be charged a monthly fee.

However, that doesn't mean that you still can't check your credit report for free. Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the three credit reporting agencies - Equifax, Experian and TransUnion - are required to give consumers a free copy of their credit reports every 12 months at no cost. In order to receive your credit report, you must contact the Annual Credit Report Request Service at 1-877-322-8228 or www.annualcreditreport.com. This service allows you to get a credit report from each credit reporting agency.

Although you can receive all of your credit reports at once, some people elect to review one credit report at a time every couple of months, which allows them to see the most up-to-date information on their credit activity throughout the year. It's important to check all three of your credit reports because different reporting agencies may collect different data.

Why You Should Check Your Credit Report Each Year

If you want to apply for a mortgage, credit cards, insurance, or even a job, you should know what's on your credit report. Potential creditors and employers will look at your credit report to find out information about your bill payment history, bankruptcies that are on your record, how many credit accounts you have and how many times you have applied for credit. Since your creditworthiness will be decided based on this information, you should also know what's on your credit report so that you can correct any errors that can negatively affect your credit standing. In addition, it's important to check your credit report regularly to find out whether or not you have been the victim of identity theft.

If the information on your credit report is incorrect, or someone has opened an account in your name, the FCRA gives you the right to dispute the information with the credit reporting agency, as well as the organization that supplied the credit information to the agencies. When you bring this information to their attention, they are required to investigate your claim and fix the errors.