September 28, 2020
By Rahul Iyer
When it comes to your financial life, few things will impact your future as much as your credit score. Your credit report may impact your mortgage rates, apartment requests, credit card worthiness, and even your job applications. Regularly checking your credit report is the most effective way to learn what insurance companies, banks, and even future employers see about your financial health and history. Armed with this knowledge, you can take action and start improving your credit score, and therefore your future financial prospects.
A federal law enacted in 2005 allows US consumers to get one free credit report annually from each of the three national consumer reporting bureaus, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Since it's free, there's really no reason not to take this option. You can get your free report by phone (1-877-322-8228), mail, or the one authorized website, www.annualcreditreport.com. To get your free credit report, you will need to provide some personal information for verification purposes, including your name, address, date of birth, and social security number.
If you want to check your credit report more frequently than three times a year (one for each bureau), then we have some good news. While the federal law does only require these agencies to give one free report per year, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion have joined together to offer frequent free credit reports in 2020. Americans can now check their credit report with these agencies once per week from April 2020 to April 2021. Again, you can do this through the annual credit report website, as you could for your free annual reports.
This change is due to the widespread disruption the coronavirus pandemic has caused to the financial health of US citizens. Due to high unemployment levels and other economic stressors, many Americans are considering taking on more debt to help weather the storm of the pandemic. In a joint statement, the CEOs of all three companies said the intent behind this new plan was to make credit reports more accessible "so people can better manage their finances and take necessary steps to protect their credit standing." At the time of writing, it's too early to predict whether this plan will be extended beyond the initial one year, but it's certainly possible. Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion will likely reassess the situation closer to the deadline and may extend it depending on several factors including the health of the economy, unemployment rates, and individual lending habits. That being said, unprecedented events have a way of expediting change, so this could end up being a permanent option for people in the future.
Many people choose to pay for financial services to get a more comprehensive look at their credit report and credit score. It's important to note that your credit score is not the same as your credit report, but it is a numerical representation of your credit report. Put simply, if you have a strong credit report then you will have a high credit score. If you want to monitor your credit score more closely, then you may benefit from a paid service. However, for the majority of people who just want to access their credit report, the free avenue is sufficient.