How Do I Get My Annual Credit Report?

How Do I Get My Annual Credit Report?
Mike Randall
By: Mike Randall
Posted: January 12, 2015's popular "How-To" series is for those who seek to improve, rebuild or better understand their subprime credit rating.

If you’ve made a resolution to improve your credit in 2015, one of the best places to start is by requesting your free annual credit report.

What? You don’t know about your right to a free copy of your credit report each year? It’s actually quite simple…

Your Rights Under the Law

As part of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) of 2003, Congress stipulated that every American has the right to access his or her credit report once every twelve months – for free. This applies to credit reports from the three major credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

To make things even easier, at the time FACTA was passed, Congress also mandated that the three credit agencies create a single website — creatively named — for consumers to claim their free annual credit report. This is the only source authorized by the federal government to provide credit reports to consumers free of charge.

The way that the website works is that any consumer wishing to use it must register and provide some basic financial information first. Once registered, they will be directed to the website of the credit reporting agency they select, where they will confirm their identity and request their report.

What Will I Get?

You will receive a credit report from any or all of the three major credit reporting bureaus. You can get three reports since you’re entitled to one report from each bureau once a year. It’s not necessary, but it’s a good idea to check each report for errors that could negatively affect your credit profile.

Your credit report will include things like the credit card accounts you have, whether you pay your bills on time, if you have a bankruptcy or financial judgment against you and other negative activity such as delinquent utility accounts. It also lists the amounts you owe and the credit limits for the cards you carry.

One thing that the credit report doesn’t list is your actual credit score – that’s a proprietary number that each reporting agency assigns consumers based on the credit information they have on you. Others like the FICO score or VantageScore rely on your reports’ data and their own algorithms to generate a unique credit score. Some companies will simply estimate your credit score based on self-reported information.

If you don’t know your credit score, be sure to check it today.

How Does This Help Me?

Knowing what’s on your credit report is crucial to maintaining a good credit score. By keeping a close eye on what is contained in your credit report, you can catch inaccurate information that can negatively impact your score. You can also watch for fraudulent activity such as identity theft.

Anyone who plans to apply for a credit card, make a major purchase using credit or even apply for a job should know in advance what’s contained in their credit report.