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Your Guide to Your Credit Report
January 26, 2023 by Spectrum Credit Union
The start of a new year is the perfect time to begin fresh with your finances.
One of the first steps you should take each new year is to check your credit report. Reviewing your own credit report is free, won’t impact your credit score and offers you a chance to catch any potential problems early on. As a bonus, it doesn’t take a ton of time to get that peace of mind. You can review all your reports online quickly and easily.
Ready to conduct your own credit checkup? Follow these steps:
1. Order your credit reports
By law, you’re entitled to one free credit report from each credit bureau — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — once per year. You can order all three reports online through AnnualCreditReport.com.
If you prefer, you can pull all three credit reports at once to compare information and catch any potential errors. However, some people opt to order one report at a time, spread out over several months, to keep track of their information free throughout the year.
Keep in mind that ordering your credit reports is free, but you will have to pay a small fee to see your credit scores.
2. Check for accuracy
Your credit report contains three main sections:
- Personal information: Your legal name, address, phone number and even job title can all appear here.
- Account information: Current and closed accounts stretching back to 10 years as well as payment history, credit limits and debts.
- Judgements and liens: Bankruptcies, civil judgements and liens all appear on your credit reports.
Carefully review your entire credit report for accuracy. Any personal information, including previous addresses, should be accurate. Inaccuracies could point to potential identity theft. Your account information should be current. (Keep in mind: Open accounts are updated monthly and may not reflect the up-to-the-minute information you see about your accounts online.) Closed accounts should accurately reflect payment history, any amounts owed and closing dates. While any judgements listed should reflect correct dates, amounts and other key information.
Some common errors include accounts being listed as current when the account is closed. Payments subject to relief due to COVID-19 are marked as missed. Or, rarely, accounts that do not belong to you are incorrectly listed on your credit report.
3. Dispute errors
On average, one in five credit reports contains at least one error, according to a study by the Federal Trade Commission. While an error on your credit report may not be serious enough to impact your credit score, it is worth taking any mistake seriously.
If you do find an error, dispute it as soon as possible with both the credit bureau reporting the error and the financial institution involved.
All three credit bureaus now allow you to dispute errors online for free through the credit bureau’s website. You can also email or mail a dispute.
To file a dispute, start by gathering any proof to support your claim. For example, copies of bank statements showing a payment to your credit card provider was made on time. Once you have your evidence, you’ll either need to write a letter explaining what you’re disputing and why or provide a statement using the credit bureaus’ online form.
By law, credit bureaus must investigate and respond to serious dispute claims within 30 days of receipt.
4. Work with a pro
Credit reports can be overwhelming, especially if you find errors or information that could be hurting your credit scores.
But you don’t have to work on correcting or improving your credit report alone. A certified financial counselor can work with you to review all of your credit reports, help you find and dispute inaccurate information, and get accounts up to date if you are behind on payments or overwhelmed by debt.
Our partners at Balance offer a Credit Report Review service free to Spectrum Credit Union members. Through this service, a certified credit report guru will work with you to review your report, dispute inaccuracies and help you get on the path to reaching your credit score goals.
Here at Spectrum Credit Union, we’re committed to helping you reach all your financial milestones. Regularly reviewing your credit report is an important step to take on that journey, and we’re with you all the way.