The New Year is a perfect time to check your credit reports. This is especially true if you are thinking of financing a major purchase (such a car or new home) or refinancing a mortgage in 2018. A surprisingly high percentage of credit reports have inaccurate information. And, if there are problems on your report, it is much better to find out about them before you apply for credit.
There are three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. And, consumers can get one free copy of their report from all three from one website: www.annualcreditreport.com . The three bureaus established this website in order to comply with a federal law that requires them to provide consumers with one free report per year - there are no strings attached.
This website will give consumers all of the information about their credit history for the last seven years. If you were 30 days late on a credit card payment five years ago, that will probably be recorded. It is a good idea to scrutinize the account and confirm that all of the information is correct.
One piece of information that you will not see on your free report is your credit score. Although you can purchase your score for an additional fee, there are other sources from which you can obtain your score without cost. Many credit card companies provide consumers with free access to their credit score. Some commercial sites such as Credit Karma that provide access to reports and credit scores without charging consumers. When accessing Credit Karma, some consumers receive directed offers from banks that want to loan them money, and those banks pay Credit Karma for providing that access. We think that is a reasonable trade-off for consumers.
Sometimes reports include accounts that a consumer did not authorize. There are procedures to request that the bureau investigate inaccurate information. Unfortunately, in most instances, there is no legitimate way to remove accurate but unfavorable information from a credit report. Some businesses, including some law firms, charge consumers fees to "correct" their reports. We do not recommend those "services", most of which charge significant fees for no real value and some of which are outright scams.