We highly recommend that consumers check their credit reports before they begin shopping for a new or a used car. Finance charges are a major expense, and consumers should know where they stand before they let a car dealer talk them into paying too high an interest rate.
You may have seen the catchy commercials offering "free" credit reports. Be careful, because there really is a catch to those offers! You will get your credit report, but you will be required to sign up for a credit monitoring service. If you forget to cancel the service after a trial period, you will be charged. You also may be required to give up important rights - like the right to go to court against the credit bureaus if there is a problem with your report that you can't get fixed.
Sometimes people try to get their report for free by asking a friend or relative who has access to the credit bureaus to pull the report for them. Although someone may think that they are doing you a favor by obliging, they are actually harming your credit score. Every time someone pulls your report, your score goes down. That is one of the reasons why it is against the law for someone to pull your report unless they have a legitimate business need for it.
There are two ways to get your credit report for free with no strings atttached.
The best way to get your credit report is by going to www.annualcreditreport.com. This is the website that federal law requires the credit bureaus to maintain in order to give you one free copy of your credit report every year. We recommend that you check one of your reports every four months; that way you can check each credit bureaus' report once a year.
The second way to get your report for free is if you have been turned down for credit. The company that turned you down is required by federal law to give you written notice of their decision. Most of the time, the company will have looked at your credit report with one or more of the credit bureaus. They are required to let you know which reports they looked at and to give you a toll-free number that you can call to get a free copy of the report.
Once you get your report, you should scrutinize it carefully to make sure that all of the information is accurate. If you see a problem, check out the article on our website for easy instructions on how to dispute it.