By now we all should know that one of the keys to financial good-health is making sure your credit rating is strong and accurate. And if you listen to a lot of advertising out there (including advertising my agency helped create), you might assume that almost anyone can get their credit report for free. But consumers have to be careful. Most of these free offers are not really free, and you can end up paying hundreds of dollars a year to get those so-called free credit reports.
However, by government mandate the three main credit rating agencies are required to give consumers their credit report for free every twelve months. Just make sure you go to www.annualcreditreport.com, the site operated by the agencies, to get your three reports. While they will all try to upsell you to credit scores and other services, you actually can get your report at no charge on the site. Consider staggering the reports – getting a different one every four months as opposed to all at once – to keep a better handle on your credit, as typically all three agencies pick up any major credit event and you can effectively monitor yourself all year.
If you have never checked your report you might be suprised. When I first checked mine many years ago I found many inaccuracies; old accounts that had been closed still listed as open, accounts that weren’t mine, and other major issues. Cleaning up this data online is typically relatively simple. You will see a section on every report that allows you to dispute any inaccurate info.