What to Know about Your Credit Report vs. Credit Score

Consumer Reports News: January 26, 2012 08:08 AM

Under current law, you can request a free credit report once every 12 months from each of the nation's three credit-reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion), but the law does not cover a free credit score. If you want your credit score, you typically have to pay for it. Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, is calling on Congress and federal regulators to change that, and make a free credit score included in your free credit report.

Many websites advertise a free credit report, but end up charging you. AnnualCreditReport.com is the only site where you get a truly free credit report that's authorized and guaranteed by law. The site was created by the credit reporting companies under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Consumers Union has a new Web page, with useful information about credit reports, plus a petition asking the government to make a free credit score part of your free credit report. "Your score is used by lenders and insurers, among others, to judge how great of a credit risk you are," says Amanda Walker, Consumer
Reports Senior Project Editor. The new Web page, www.consumersunion.org/creditreport, includes advice about why someone can check your credit score, as well as what exactly a credit report is, and why it's so important to get a copy.

Tip: If you stagger your requests to get a report from a different company every four months, you can monitor your credit over the course of the year.

Other advice includes tips on how best to find and fix mistakes on your credit report:

  • Read your entire report carefully, line by line, to see if all of the information about you is correct and up-to-date.
  • If you find a mistake, contact the credit reporting company immediately.
  • You should also contact the source that furnished the incorrect information to the company.
  • For more useful tips and additional information check out www.consumersunion.org/creditreport, which can also be found through DefendYourDollars.org.

For more instructions on how to fix mistakes on your credit report, you can read the Federal Trade Commission's full guide (PDF).


Maggie Shader

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