Managing and maintaining credit is essential to improving financial health. Understanding both how credit works and how it can be monitored is a necessary skill for all consumers. Checking your credit status is fairly easy, if you know where to look.
Collect your financial documents. This includes having your personal information handy (especially your social security number). Pay special attention to all credit card and loan statements, as these will be the accounts listed on your credit file.
Log on to Annual Credit Report's website (see Resources). The website, which is maintained and governed by the federal government, allows all consumers a free copy of their credit report from all three credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian and Trans Union.
Enter your personal information on the website under the sign-up page. Pay special attention to all forms, as there will be advertisements encouraging you to purchase other financial products (such as your FICO score, a number that is not free). If you wish to purchase extra items, check or uncheck the boxes accordingly.
Answer the security questions. This is why you need your financial paperwork. The security questions pertain to all open and closed accounts on your credit report. You must answer all questions correctly in order to proceed. Use your files as a reference. If you don't know an answer to a question, log out, do the research required to obtain the answer and log back in.
Review your credit status for inaccuracies. Corroborate all information on all three reports. If there is erroneous information on any or all reports, contact each bureau separately.
Based in Eugene, Ore., Duncan Jenkins has been writing finance-related articles since 2008. His specialties include personal finance advice, mortgage/equity loans and credit management. Jenkins obtained his bachelor's degree in English from Clark University.