If you’re like many people, you probably wouldn't think to check the status of your credit until a need arises — such as applying for a loan or a line of credit. But it’s important to check your credit reports on a regular basis to ensure that there aren't any errors, and to help protect yourself against fraud and identity theft.
Issues like these could cause major problems for you and your family, as well as prevent you from receiving a loan or getting your best possible rate for financing. Knowing where you stand with your credit could save the time and money it takes to correct these problems.
Here’s what you’ll want to know about your credit report — including how and when to check it, and what you should look for.
Conduct an annual check-up.
Many experts recommend that you check your credit at least once per year, but you can do it as often as you like. If you opt for an annual check, try scheduling it after an event such as your birthday or a holiday to make it easy to remember.
Also, there are different consumer credit reporting agencies; the three major reporters are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. When checking your credit, you can choose to pull all three reports at once … or you can space them out evenly throughout the year.
Each year, you’re entitled to one free credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies mentioned. All you have to do is visit AnnualCreditReport.com to request a free copy. You have the option to view your credit report online or have a copy mailed to you. But keep in mind, the free credit report you receive contains only the information on file with the credit bureaus, not your actual credit score. In most cases, you would need to pay a fee to get your exact score.
Know what to look for.
When reviewing your credit report, you should start by making sure everything is correct. For example, do you recognize the accounts? Does the report accurately reflect your payment history on each of the accounts listed?
In most cases, you should be able to tell if something isn't right. Just be on the lookout for loans or credit cards listed that you never opened, misspelled names, incorrect addresses or collection items that haven’t been updated.
In the event that you do have a problem with your credit report, it’s important to dispute it immediately by contacting the credit reporting agency and the company that provided the information. The credit bureau is legally required to investigate your dispute and will typically do so within 30 days. Additionally, if you know the company reporting the incorrect information, contacting it can sometimes help facilitate the dispute process.
To learn more about this topic, or to request your free credit report, visit AnnualCreditReport.com.
This article is provided by New York Life Insurance Company for informational purposes only. This article is not intended to provide tax, legal, financial or accounting advice. Please consult your own professional for advice specific to your circumstances.