The rest of the country was given this benefit at varying times earlier this year, but it finally has come to the east coast. I was going to wait until September 1, the official “release date,” but as MyMoneyBlog noted, the floodgates have opened a few days early.
I’m talking of course about free credit reports. Everyone in the United States is now entitled to one free credit report each year, from each of the three consumer credit reporting companies, Equifax, Experian and Transunion.
I plan on getting one every four months in order to get a more accurate picture of how my credit report changes throughout the year.
By the way, if you want your credit score, you are going to have to pay. (You might want to try the free MyFICO Credit Score Estimator but I can’t vouch for its accuracy. The website tells me my credit score is between 720 and 770. Who knows?)
The credit report itself, without your score, is free, and it is very important to check yours once in a while to ensure all information is correct. A report with incorrect negative items can cost you thousands of dollars if you were, for example, to apply for a mortgage and get a less favorable rate than you should due to a lower credit rating.
I chose Experian as the provider my first credit report; they were the first listed of the three companies. The process took about two minutes during which I needed to answer a few personal questions in order to verify my identity. My 16-page report was immediately generated. Luckilly, there is no incorrect information on the report, but I do have two “potentially negative items” back from my days of financial irresponsibility (or absent-mindedness).
And in case you are wondering, viewing your own credit report does not affect your credit score.
Updated February 6, 2012 and originally published August 26, 2005.