Can I Get Access to Read My Credit Report?

Updated on March 12, 2024

At a Glance

  • A credit report is a summary of your financial activity, crucial for lenders assessing your creditworthiness.
  • Lenders use it to decide on granting loans or services, and poor credit can lead to higher rates and stricter terms.
  • Access your credit report for free once a year from each of the three major reporting agencies.
  • Regularly review your report to detect identity theft and ensure accuracy, and improve your credit with diligence and effort.

Your credit affects all sort of aspects of your life, from getting a loan to getting a job. But how do you find out what your credit is saying about you? And what should you do if there is a mistake? Below we’ll show you how to access your free credit report and what to look for when you do.

What is a Credit Report and Why is it Important?

A credit report is a report compiled about your financial activity by one of several consumer reporting agencies. The purpose of the report is to determine your creditworthiness. How likely are you to pay back your loans in full and on time? The report contains information about all your current and past credit accounts or loans. It will also describe any liens, foreclosures, bankruptcies or past-due child support.

Why is a credit report important? Because lenders use it to determine if they want to lend you money. If you apply for a loan or credit card, need car insurance, or purchase cable, internet or cell phone service, the company will almost certainly want a look at your credit. If you have a poor credit history, it will mean higher rates, stricter loan terms and you might even be refused service altogether.

People are sometimes confused about the difference between a credit report and a credit score. A credit report lists a wide variety of information about you, and is compiled by one of the three major reporting companies, Experian, EquiFax or TransUnion. A credit score, on the other hand, is a single number derived from this information. Credit scores are usually offered by a separate company (FICO is the most common).

How Can I Get Access to My Credit Report?

By law, each of the three major reporting agencies must allow you access to one free report a year. You can request your reports at AnnualCreditReport.com. Though you can request all three reports at once, it makes more sense to spread them out over a year. By spreading them out, you stay on top of any changes or problems that occur during the year. You are entitled to additional reports if you experience an adverse action or suspect fraud.

A lot of sites will offer to give you a credit report. Remember that you can always get a free report once per year. Be cautious about any site trying to charge you money for a report.

How Often is My Credit Report Updated?

Credit reporting agencies collect information about consumers from financial companies like credit card companies, lenders or banks. Most companies submit information monthly, so your credit report should be updated at least once a month. Not every company submits their information on the same day, however. Your credit report may change throughout the month, as companies report on their own schedule.

Problems: What to Look for on Your Credit Report

If you access your free credit report throughout the year, you can keep track of any problems. Perhaps the most important thing to look for is evidence of attempted identity theft. Every company that has requested a credit check should show up on your credit report. If you see a lot of requests you don’t recognize, that could be a sign that someone is trying to steal your identity. And if you see any accounts listed that you didn’t open, you should immediately issue a credit card dispute.

Identity theft isn’t the only reason you should review your free credit report carefully. Because a good credit history is so important, it’s vital you ensure all the information is accurate. Particularly, you want to ensure there are no mistakes that could damage your credit score. A couple of things to look for:

  • All open accounts are listed as open. A closed account with a balance will affect your credit score.
  • Bankruptcy. If you have declared bankruptcy, make sure your debts aren’t listed as simply unpaid.
  • Out-of-date information. Negative information like late payments or debt collection can only be listed for 7 years, and bankruptcy for 10. If something is outside the time limit, make sure it doesn’t appear on your report.

If you find something inaccurate or suspicious, contact the credit agency by phone or through their website to file a dispute.

Your credit history can affect everything from loan rates to employment prospects. Use your free credit reports to see what lenders are learning about you. But if you do have a poor credit history, it’s not the end of the world. It will take diligence and hard work, but there are many ways to improve your credit.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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