In the USA you have a right to one free credit report each year, though there is no point in getting a credit report if you don't know what to use it for.
Your free credit report will provide you with a lot of information regarding the credit agreements you have entered into, and their current and past status. It will also tell you what searches into your credit record have been carried out, by which companies and when.
Many of these will be pre-approved credit card searches that are becoming increasingly common. Ironically, even if you apply for a pre-approved card you can still be rejected if your credit score is too low at the time of application. If you have applied for other forms of credit, such as a mail order catalogue, these searches will also be listed.
Your credit score is of much more interest to lenders, since it is a numerical figure calculated on a number of variables that let's lenders know how much of a credit risk you are. It is a snapshot figure of your credit-worthiness at the time it is requested. While a bad repayment record in your credit report will be with it for seven years, your credit score can be improved over the short term. There are things that can be done to do this, and although they are not easy to achieve, many people are able to repair their credit score in a relatively short period time.
However, that is another topic, and has been introduced to exemplify the difference between a numerical credit score and a credit report that is nothing more than a database of your credit record. The objective of this article is to provide you with information on how to go about getting your own free credit report, and also to provide you with a link on how to understand the report and improve your credit score.
Do not believe those that try to persuade you that repairing your credit score is easy, because it is not, but it can be done. Most financial advice is provided by lenders or others involved in the industry, but mine is based on the personal experience of somebody that is currently in the process of trying to repair his own credit record, and who owed many thousands to credit card companies.
I am well aware of what a credit report is, and pay a subscription to Experian so that I can access my credit record at any time. Even with the subscription, I still have to pay for my credit score. Therefore, your credit score and credit report are separate entities. However, there are things that you do to have certain records removed from your credit report, and that will in turn improve your credit score.
"Charge Offs" are debts that have been written off by banks and financial institutions as not recoverable, and are the worst type of record to have on your report. If these appear on your free credit record then it might be possible to agree a partial repayment with the bank in return for the record being removed. Sometimes financial institutions will accept this deal if it is the only way they are going to get some of their money back. However, this does not always work since they will generally not be willing to discuss the matter with you.
These records will also disappear after 7 years, so unless you have a pressing need for credit within 7 years of the default appearing on your record, you could wait and then check your credit report to make sure it has gone. If not, then request that it is.
Other uses for your credit report including ensuring that the debt is yours: it is not unknown for the debt of another person to appear on your credit record. Somebody might have used your address to get credit, and it is the address that matters here, not the name. An adjunct to that is that if somebody living in your home, such as a paying guest, has bad credit, then it will appear on your credit report. In such cases you have to inform the credit report agency that the person is not financially dependent on you, and demand that the record be removed. That is your legal right.
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) you can challenge any entry in your free credit report if you feel it is inaccurate. The credit bureaus that hold your records must then request confirmation of the information from the original creditor, and if that has not been provided within 30 days then the record must be removed. It is often not enough for the creditor simply to confirm the record, but to provide evidence that it is accurate. I have had more than one record removed this way.
Your free credit report, then, is important to you, but you have to know what to do with it. However, be realistic and understand that perhaps only time can help your credit report. However, your credit score might be easier to improve, especially if you can get a loan such as a bad credit mortgage that, although you will be paying a higher interest rate, will do wonders for your credit score if you maintain your payments.
The three major credit agencies are Experian, Equifax and Trans Union and you have the right to request any of them for a free credit report within 60 days of being refused credit, and also a further free report every year. The company refusing you credit must inform you which agency they used.
Pete is highly experienced in handling credit problems and his webpage Credit Report provides information on your rights, and also how to understand your credit report and repair your credit score.