In an effort to get a better handle on my finances, I’ve started to learn about credit . . . specifically, the magical credit score that determines all of your financial future. It influences your ability to obtain a credit card (and the card’s interest rate and credit limit), mortgage, loan, or any other number of things that I may or may not need to do in the future. Poor financial decisions will create bad credit which limits what you can and cannot do in the future.
One of the best things you can do for your personal financial health is to regularly check your credit report. It is now FREE to obtain a copy of your credit report once a year from each of the three credit reporting bureaus. Because of this, many financial advisers are now recommending that every four months you check your credit report.
What exactly is this credit report, and why do you need to check it so often? It is a listing of all the accounts that you have on record. Remember that credit card that you opened at the mall one day three years ago and only used once? It’s on your credit report, and every time an employer/lender/bank/etc. checks your credit, they see this card. You forgot to pay your cable bill when you moved to a new state? You’ve got a missed payment on your credit report that shows up and detracts from your credit! Or perhaps you thought you paid off that outstanding rent payment, but for some reason it’s still there . . . four years later, giving you bad credit. It’s important to keep tabs on your credit report so that you know what is happening in your life. This can also be VERY useful if you think you may have been a victim of identity theft, because if someone else has been doing things in your name that you don’t know of, this is where you can catch it.
However, there are scams out there trying to GET all your credit information by posing as “free credit report” websites. Don’t be fooled! THE website to go to is AnnualCreditReport.com. This one is not a scam and is safe to use. You can go to this site to get your report from Equifax, TransUnion, or Experian (the three reporting bureaus). They also make it available to get your actual credit score, but this costs a little money (I got mine from TransUnion for $7.95). From what I’ve researched, it’s recommended that you get your credit REPORT every four months (since it’s free) and your credit SCORE once a year, just so you know where you stand.
I was quite pleasantly surprised when I checked mine. I figured since I’ve only been building my credit for about 18 months that it would not be very good, and there wouldn’t be much information, but there was quite a bit on there, including an account that I had forgotten about. The report also gave me some thoughts as to why my score isn’t higher (accounts haven’t been open really long and I don’t have any involvement with real estate).
You can find way more information on credit by reading any good personal finance blog (check out the links in my sidebar). For more specific information about this topic, read How to Obtain Your Free Credit Report @ Get Rich Slowly.
Taking control of your financial situation by keeping tabs on your credit? Works for me!