Plan to check your credit reports once a year. It’s free and can save you major credit hassles. The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you one free credit report per year from three of the major credit bureaus. The bureaus are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. It’s a good idea to check your report from each of them every year. This way, you will catch any errors that can hinder your ability to receive a loan, job or rental housing.

Try to check your report at the same time every year so you know that the new data you’re seeing isn’t more than a year old. To help you remember, choose a time of year when other regular events occur. For example, you could check your report around New Year’s, an important birthday, or tax time.

During these times of COVID-19, accessing your credit is important. That’s why Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion are now offering free weekly online reports through April 2021. Head on over to https://www.annualcreditreport.com/requestReport/landingPage.action to compete three easy steps which include:

1. Fill out a form.

2. Pick the reports you want.

3. Request and Review your reports online

What is a credit report?

A credit report is a summary of financial history from institutions that report to credit bureaus. This includes loan paying history and status of your credit accounts. It has five types of information:

• Identifying information (such as current address, social security number, date and place of birth).

• Public records (such as bankruptcies, judgments, and tax liens).

• Collection agency accounts.

• Credit accounts.

• Inquiries made to your account.

• Your credit report is different from your credit score. A credit score is a number given to a person that shows lenders their capacity to repay a loan.

Credit report errors are commonA recent study by the Federal Trade Commission found that one in four consumers had an error on their credit report. The study showed that some errors were minor. But about 5% had errors that changed their credit score. That change could result in higher interest loans. This cost them money they could have otherwise saved. Remember: It’s up to you to check your credit report for errors. No one else will, and the error will remain on your report for a long time, which could reduce credit score.

It’s important to check the report from each credit bureau because each report is unique. They will vary because your lenders don’t always report to all three credit bureaus. This accounts for differences in your reports. Also, a mistake may occur on only one of the reports. If you don’t check all three, you may miss an error.

Credit scores aren’t always freeThe Fair Credit Reporting Act entitles you to a free credit report from each bureau once every 12 months. This does not include a free credit score. You may need to pay a private organization to see your credit score. But, some credit card companies and banks give customers their credit scores at no charge. If the information on your reports is correct and you’re not planning to apply for loans in the next year, you may not need to know your credit score.

Where to order credit reports?To order, visit annualcreditreport.com, call 1-877-322-8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

For more information on this or other family topics, contact Shelly Barnes, family and consumer sciences Extension agent for UT Extension in Wilson County. Barnes may be reached at sphill24@utk.edu or ‪615-444-9584 ext. 105.

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