Be money smart: Check your credit report
A credit report gives you a current snapshot of your financial health.
With Money Smart Week 2014 just around the corner – April 5 to 12 – it’s the perfect time to order your free credit report.
Why do I want a copy of my credit report?
A credit report will give you a current snapshot of your financial information: mortgage debt, installment debt (car loans, etc.), and revolving accounts, such as credit cards. It will not list any personal loans you have with friends or relatives – only debt related to accounts with financial institutions that provide information to the credit reporting companies. It also includes information on where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you’ve been sued or arrested, or have filed for bankruptcy. Nationwide credit reporting companies sell the information in your report to creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses that use it to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, or renting a home.
Note that you will not receive a credit score with your free credit report. If you need a credit score for a loan application, the financial institution will request permission to obtain it. For most other purposes, the free credit report should be all you need.
You want a copy of your credit report so you can:
- Make sure the information is accurate, complete and up-to-date before you apply for a loan for a major purchase like a car or house, buy insurance or apply for a job.
- Help guard against identity theft. That’s when someone uses your personal information — like your name, your Social Security number, or your credit card number — to commit fraud. Identity thieves may use your information to open a new account in your name. When the bills are not paid, the delinquent account is reported on your credit report. Inaccurate information could affect your ability to get credit, insurance, or even a job.
To request your free credit report, visit www.annualcreditreport.com, call 1-877-322-8228 or complete an Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
Michigan State University Extension educator LaShawn Brown recommends that you order one of your free reports every four months. For example, request your report from Equifax in January, then from Experian in May and then TransUnion in September. Remember that the law allows you to order one free copy of your report from each of the nationwide credit reporting companies every 12 months.
MSU Extension is offering the free program, “Top 50 Tips: Be a Money SMARTY!” on Tuesday, April 8. The program will begin at 6 p.m. and is a part of Money Smart Week. To sign up for this program or to find other programs in Michigan, just visit www.moneysmartweek.org. Money Smart Week events are open to the public and cover topics including kids and money, unemployment, managing student debt, retirement and more.