You know it’s out there: your free credit report. By law, the three major credit report agencies must give each individual with a report a free copy upon request once a year. If you’d like to check out your free credit report, here’s how to go about it and what you can expect from each of the three major company’s sites. Or at least, this is what I found when I looked for my own report from each of the companies.
There are three major credit reporting companies. They are TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. You are entitled to a report from each company. Now, if you like, you can cut the year into thirds and check in with a different company every four months, giving yourself three reports spread out over the year. Or, you can be like me and look at all reports in one fell swoop, which, looking back wasn’t that great an idea. Anyhow, to begin the search go to www.annualcreditreport.com. (You can also call 1-877-322-8228.) Here, you will be directed to fill in some information (name, address, etc.) and then you will be allowed to check a box next to the company whose report you want. As mentioned, I chose all three. I was told, to get back to this page after viewing my first report, I just had to hit a button on the tool bar which remained with me wherever I went. Very convenient.
First, I went to the Experian report. Here, I had to answer some questions for security’s sake. They asked me questions about my address and various debts and gave me several possible answers. It was like a multiple choice test on myself. Fun. After I was cleared, I was offered a chance to get a credit score, too, for $5.95. Pass. Where’s the free stuff? I clicked onto my free credit report. It told me right away how many negative accounts I had – credit cards I had been overdue with – and how many good accounts I had. It didn’t require me to register, get any sort of password, or do anything other than look. I could check which debts were the “bad” ones and which the good. I could make sure all the information was correct. And I was given a file number so I could access my record again for the next thirty days. No frills, but, all the information I was looking for from a credit report.
So I click the button to go back to annualcreditreport.com and selected the next company: Equifax. I got the same deal: an offer for a credit score (this time for $7.95) and another multiple choice question on myself. However, here the questions were harder; there was one on a loan I hadn’t deal with in a few years. I passed, though, and went on to view my free credit report. But then there was another speed bump: I could get access to my report for the thirty days, just like with Experian, but with Equifax, I had to set up an account. Pass. You already have all my information, Equifax, I don’t feel compelled to sign up for more stuff.
What I did like about Equifax, in contrast to Experian, was it laid all my debts out for me: revolving accounts (credit cards, basically) $x; installment accounts (loans) $Y dollars. Totals, even ballpark, can be helpful for those of us trying to reduce our debts.
Next, returning to annualcreditreport.com again, I accessed my TransUnion report. Again, I was solicited to buy a credit score. Back to $5.95. Pass. (Actually, I took this one because I wanted to see it.). This one was the toughest one to access. I had to answer another question about me. Except, to answer, I had to enter a credit card account number. (Again, they already know it, soÃ¢Â?Â¦). The problem is, if you’re not sitting there with that particular credit card in front of you, you have to stop and go get it. Which I did. I also had to start an account to get my credit report. Because I TOTALLY want another thing with a password and user name I have to remember.
Anyhow, TransUnion arranges your credit report with all your accounts out for you month by month with little squares in different colors – orange means you were late, gray means you’re fine, etc. This goes back 48 months. This is cool for those of us who wonder where it was our credit went wrong: “Ah, yes, the flat broke streak of 04.” What they do that’s less useful is give you a list of place to contact with problems. Most are the main addresses of a huge government bureaucracies. Yeah. Real helpful.
So, still on TransUnion, I get the credit score, I had to sign up for an account, naturally. And, also naturally, they solicited me to buy something else (a debt ratio analysisÃ¢Â?Â¦ pass). Then I got the score (and was pleasantly surprisedÃ¢Â?Â¦). Then, I was about done with my journey through the world of free credit reports. Now, armed with the good (better credit score), the bad (whoa, do I owe a lot of moneyÃ¢Â?Â¦) and the ugly (I really hate that these agencies give all my info out to peopleÃ¢Â?Â¦) I can now begin to deal my debts and my financial identity responsibly. Or at least try.