There are a few things I make sure to do at the beginning of each year. Not any of those pesky resolutions we never seem to be able to commit to for more than a few weeks. I’m referring to some personal finance tasks. The two most important things I think you can do for yourself when it comes to personal finance are rebalancing your investments and checking your credit report. I’ll talk about rebalancing later. For now, lets talk about credit reports.
Thanks to an amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act back in 2003, consumers are able to receive one free credit report per year. That includes one report from each of the three major reporting agencies. And getting your report couldn’t be easier. AnnualCreditReport.com was established to make requesting reports easy. A word of caution: there are several “look alike” sites where you can pull your report, and some may even want credit card information to set up monitoring. These aren’t the official site. Be sure you’re at the Federal approved website where you don’t need a credit card to get your information. If you’re at a site where they’re asking for one, you’re in the wrong place. Sure, you could get monitoring if you’re that worried, but if you’re careful in your personal business and monitor your reports regularly, I don’t think it’s necessary.
When you go to the site and request your report, you will need to provide some personal information. After all, they do need to verify you are who you say you are! The thing I like most about the site is you can request all three reports at once or one now and the rest later. I like to do one at a time then a few months down the road another. This spreads them out throughout the year. It’s a matter of preference; do whichever way makes you most comfortable. Also, you won’t see your credit score, just the report. You will need to subscribe to a service such as Credit Karma to obtain your score. Here’s a bonus for Discover card carriers, they have a new feature where they provide your credit score on your monthly account summary which is a nice perk.
After reviewing your credit report, the agencies offer ways to correct any information that is not accurate. If there are any errors, be sure to follow-through on getting the information corrected. You’ll need something more than an email from you saying “I paid this” so be prepared to provide proof. They will get the information corrected if it’s inaccurate; just be patient with the process.
Don’t underestimate your credit report. Whether you’re looking at purchasing a house, a new car, or opening a bank account or credit card, or even car insurance, they all check your credit report. And they all base your rates on how good (or bad) your credit is. Do yourself a favor and check yours.