A person’s credit score plays a vital role in whether someone can make it through life without worrying about excessive interest rates or getting approved for a mortgage. Despite how critical it is to have a good credit score, only about 33 percent of Americans checked their credit reports in 2019 and 2020.
It’s even more shocking when you take into consideration that you are entitled to a free annual credit report from each of the major credit reporting bureaus. If you’ve never taken the time to pull your credit report, then finding out how to do it might seem confusing. Read on for a complete how-to guide when it comes to credit reporting!
Why Should You Get an Annual Credit Report?
It’s not always easy to identify when things are going awry in your financial life. This is especially true when it comes to identity theft. Sure, an enterprising identity thief might steal your credit card information and your bank might flag their purchases.
Other forms of identity theft are not so conspicuous. What if one of your neighbors picks up a pre-approved credit card offer and takes out a card in your name? You won’t know something’s wrong unless you pull your credit report.
Pulling your credit report allows you to see every credit-based account in your name for the past seven years. It also allows you to see who has pulled your credit recently. It might seem simple, but pulling your credit report on a regular basis is a powerful practice.
How Do You Get a Free Annual Credit Report?
Surprisingly, this can be rather tricky. There is only one place online where you can pull your free annual credit report from each of the three credit reporting bureaus. That particular website is called Annual Credit Report.com.
There are many businesses who have created websites with similar-sounding names that charge you to pull your credit report. Don’t be fooled!
Once you’re on the Annual Credit Report website, all you need to do is click the button to request your reports. You will need to fill out a form that asks for information like your name, address, and social security number.
Once the form is filled out, each of the credit bureaus will have their own identity verification process. They will generally ask you questions about open accounts or past addresses to verify your identity. Once you are done reviewing your credit report from one bureau, download it to your computer and move on to the next bureau.
Remember, since you can only pull this information once per year, it’s important to save everything to your computer so you have it handy. Then, set an alert to pull your credit report the following year.
Can You Contest Information on Your Credit Report?
As with all things in life, credit bureaus and creditors can and will make errors in their reporting. If you don’t contest the information, it will ding your credit and have an impact on your score for seven years.
If you notice something isn’t right with your credit report, you can absolutely file a dispute with the credit bureau. Start by gathering all the evidence you have that the reported item is incorrect. Then, file a dispute with each credit reporting bureau that has inaccurate information.
The credit bureau must investigate your dispute and send you the results of their findings. If they find that the item is, in fact, an error, then they must also send you a copy of your new credit report.
If you have been unsuccessful in your attempts to clean up your credit report, then it’s time to pull out the big guns. Consider hiring an attorney to help you out, like one you’ll find at https://consumerprotection.net/new-york-city-fcra-litigation-lawyer/. They know how to work with creditors and credit reporting agencies to get inaccurate information off of your credit report.
Credit Improvement Tips
Now that you know what’s on your credit report and how to dispute errors, you might be feeling inspired to tackle your credit score. There are a number of things that go into the calculation of your credit score, but the following four items are definitely the biggest things to consider.
Your payment history makes up approximately 35 percent of your overall credit score. Credit bureaus look what percentage of your payments were made on time.
It’s important to note that “on-time” generally means that you made your credit card, auto loan, or mortgage payment within 30 days of the due date. That said, some creditors are more vigilant than others at reporting past due payments.
If you know you are going to be late, give your creditor a call to give them a head’s up. They might be willing to give you break to avoid a late payment notation.
Credit utilization measures how much available credit you have. It accounts for 30 percent of your credit score. It’s a good idea to keep your credit utilization at 30 percent or less of your total credit. This might mean paying off your credit cards pretty aggressively.
Your credit age makes up about 15 percent of your credit score. Credit reporting bureaus look at your oldest and newest accounts and create an average credit age. The longer your credit history, the better off you’ll be.
Last, but certainly not least, is your credit mix, which makes up 10 percent of your credit score. Creditors like to a good mix of credit items on your credit report. This might include some credit cards, a car loan, a mortgage, and retail accounts.
The more diverse your credit mix, the better your score.
Improving Your Credit Takes Work But It’s Worth It
There are many things you can do in life to help keep yourself financially stable. One of the most important things you should do, however, is to pull a free annual credit report each and every year. This will make it easy for you to stay on top of your credit and identify errors.
Are you interested in learning more great ways to get yourself back on track to financial freedom? We can help you with that! Check out the rest of our blog for tons of tips and tricks.