How to Get a Free Credit Report Once a Year and Keep Your Score From Dropping

Keeping your credit score high is one of the keys to securing low interest rates on loans and keeping your monthly payments manageable. Your credit report contains data on all of your credit accounts, payment histories, collection accounts, credit inquiries and public records related to debt. You can look up your credit report regularly to monitor its contents, ensure that it is accurate and check up on how you are doing. Looking up your own credit report never causes your score to drop, but other credit-related actions can.

Free Credit Report

Go to the Annual Credit Report website. This website is authorized by the government to provide the free credit reports to which you are entitled by law.

Select the state in which you live and fill out the personal information on the following form. You need to provide your full name, date of birth, Social Security number and current address to locate your credit report.

Select the credit bureau from which you would like to receive your report. You are entitled to one report per year per bureau. Therefore, you can get them all at once or stagger the requests to monitor your credit more frequently.

Follow the instructions to get each of the credit reports you request. You might need to answer additional personal questions to verify your identity. Use the link at the top of the page to return to AnnualCreditReport.com after getting each report so you can navigate to the next one.

Keep Score High

Look over your credit report for errors, such as accounts that do not belong to you or records of late payments that are inaccurate. Dispute any errors you find with the credit bureau that provided the report by following the instructions printed on the report.

Make all of your payments on time every month. Setting up automatic payments or payment reminders keeps you from forgetting them. Making and sticking to a budget can help you have money when you need it.

Use only a small percentage of your available credit on each of your credit cards. As your credit card balance approaches your credit limit, your score begins to drop. This is because you appear to be overextended, which makes you more of a credit risk, so your score adjusts to reflect the risk.

Apply for new credit only when you need it. Whenever a creditor checks your credit in response to an application, the creditor's name appears in the inquiries section of your report. Each inquiry drops your score slightly. Checking your own credit or having your credit checked for employment or another non-credit-related reason does not hurt your score.

Pay all bills, including those that don't usually report to the credit bureaus, such as medical and utility bills. If you are delinquent, they can sell the accounts to collection agencies, at which point they will seriously hurt your score.

Tips

  • It is much easier to keep your credit score from dropping than to fix it after it drops. Negative marks stay on your credit report for up to seven years, and although their effect dwindles over time, it can be difficult to recover from them.

Warnings

  • Do not provide your Social Security number or credit card information to an unfamiliar website promising credit reports. Annual Credit Report is the only government-authorized site for your free annual credit reports. You can also safely obtain credit reports for a charge from the Experian, Equifax, TransUnion and FICO websites.

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