In a world where personal data is routinely breached, it makes sense to regularly check your credit information to make sure it’s accurate — and that it’s not being used without your knowledge.
At a minimum, take advantage of the federal law that lets you get a free report from the three major credit bureaus at least once a year. Request them online at annualcreditreport.com or by mail. Some experts suggest staggering those requests so that you get one from a different credit bureau every four months.
But you can see your credit report information more often — and check your credit score at the same time — by using free credit monitoring sites like NerdWallet. Checking your own credit does not affect your score.
Why check your credit frequently?
Your credit reports update regularly to reflect new data the credit bureaus have received. Seeing incorrect information pop up in your credit file could suggest that it has been mixed in with someone else’s or that you have become a victim of identity theft.
Other errors, like outdated information or a payment wrongly reported late, could hurt your credit scores, which are calculated from information in your credit reports. That could affect the credit products and interest rates you qualify for.
Fixing an error could potentially improve your score.
What’s in your credit report?
Your credit report contains personally identifying information, including your birthdate, Social Security number, address, previous addresses, phone numbers, credit accounts and payment history. It may also include repossessions, collections, foreclosures and bankruptcy filings.
In addition, it has a record of who has accessed your credit information. You may see the names of your creditors, marketers (for pre-qualification offers), creditors you’ve applied to, and your own credit checks.
Other reports you’re entitled to see
Your credit reports are not the only collections of personal data that businesses look at when deciding whether to accept you as a customer and at what rate. Insurers, employers, banks, apartments, utilities and subprime lenders may check specialty reports.
You have a right to a free copy of those reports every 12 months, as well. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau keeps a list of available reports and recommends checking them as needed.