Check Your Annual Credit Report, May 2009 Edition

by Kevin on May 12, 2009

There are a multitude of ways you can check your credit report and credit score. Most of them require you to sign up for a monthly monitoring service in hopes that you will forget to cancel by the time your trial period ends. I know some people that willingly pay $10 per month to have online access to their daily updated score. That seems like overkill to me unless you’ve got a really big purchase coming up such as a house with a new mortgage.

The Easiest, Free Way to Check Your Annual Credit Report

There is a one stop website where you can check all of your reports at the same time. It’s government mandated and operated by the three credit bureaus: AnnualCreditReport.com.

You have to give up your personal information to verify your identity, then pick which bureaus you would like to receive you report from me.

It’s that simple. In 15 minutes or less you should have your reports printed off, reviewed, and filed away.

But wait, don’t get all 3 bureau reports!

As I said you can choose which reports you would like to see. You have three options (one for each of the three credit bureaus): TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax.

Unless you absolutely need all three reports at the same time (which is highly unlikely since they don’t come with a credit score) then you shouldn’t get all three reports.

Why?

You can set up your own “monitoring service” by only checking one report every four months. There are 12 months in a year, and 3 credit bureaus. So every four months you can check one report from one bureau.

If you see something alarming on that report, you can take action.

If all is well just file that report and go on with your life for the next four months. The credit bureaus have to keep each other up to date on what’s going on with your credit file, so it is unlikely that Experian would have vastly different report on file than TransUnion.

Your Credit Reports are Free, Not Your Credit Score

Again the government has mandated that you be able to have access to your credit report once per year per bureau. It says nothing about the credit score. In fact to get your accurate credit score you’ve got to pay for it.

Let me warn you: the individual bureaus will try to sell you their individual credit scores. You would think this would be fine when in fact, in my opinion, it is a scam. For example, TransUnion offers to give you their credit “score” for something like $7.95 extra.

What they don’t tell you is this is their internal credit scoring system that has a different numerical range than your real credit score. Yea. It is shady.

Get Your Real FICO Credit Score

To get your real FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation — the people who started the FICO system) then you’ll have to pay.

Prices vary depending on what package you get from myFICO. I think the most expensive is somewhere in the $40 range, but I think that one comes with all the whistles and bells with it. You can get your Fico Scores/Reports from myFICO — the only people that give you your true credit score.

Again, if you don’t need to know your score then you don’t need to go out and buy anything. But if you need to know where you stand in terms of credit scores for a new mortgage or car loan or something like that, then use myFICO.

{ 3 comments }

Busy Mom May 12, 2009 at 12:26 pm

Kevin,

I agree with you. This is how I handle our monitoring as well. I received this tip from Suze Orman in one of her publications. To help me, I put it on my calendar for the year. As an extra precaution, I rotate the ones I get. So, in February, I pulled my TransUnion and my husband’s Experian. Then in June, I am scheduled to pull my Experian and my husband’s Equifax. By rotating, I can view all 3 reports in 4 months. Since most of our accounts are joint, I would see a problem if it arose.

Keep up the great writing!

MLR May 12, 2009 at 4:31 pm

Kevin —

Great minds think alike, eh? Just wrote a similar post 🙂

I do what “Busy Mom” mentioned… I created 3 annual events in Outlook for each bureau. They are spaced out every 4 months for maximum coverage.

Once a year I MAY pull my score to see where it lies. A lot of times I actually find a coupon code or a promotion that lets me get it for free. For instance, this past year myfico was giving out free scores to the first x people who signed up on their forums.

MLR

Kevin May 16, 2009 at 1:45 pm

@BusyMom: That’s genius! I hadn’t thought of that, but turns out that is what we’ve been doing anyways — one from different bureaus.

@MLR: Yea I pretty much just try to remember Jan 1, May 1, and Sept 1.

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