Your free annual credit report is one of the most important tools you have in managing your personal finances. By checking your credit report regularly, you'll know what potential creditors, employers and landlords are seeing. If your report contains inaccurate information, you can dispute that information and potentially get it removed from your report. If the information is accurate, you can begin to address the problem by paying down debt and controlling your spending.
Federal law gives you the right to request a free annual report from each of the three national credit bureaus once every 12 months. You can file your request online, over the phone or in writing. After you get your one free report, you will have to pay for additional copies throughout the year. However, some circumstances give you the right to request an additional free report from a credit bureau, even if it's been less than 12 months since you received a free report among them:
In addition, in some states you have the right to obtain a free credit report under state law.
While checking your credit report for free once a year is a good thing to do, it isn't always enough to protect your financial health. Checking your credit report regularly or enrolling in a credit monitoring service can help nip cases of identity theft or fraud in the bud and keep your reports clear of any false information. Contrary to common credit myths, checking your own credit report doesn't damage your credit history or credit score, so don't worry about negative consequences of keeping an eye on your credit.
Don't wait until you get turned down for a loan or lose out on a job opportunity because of inaccurate credit information. Check your reports often so you can proactively contact the credit bureau to request the correction of inaccurate information before someone else sees it.