Using Free Credit Reports to Your Advantage

The best way to rocket forward towards better credit.

Rocket forward with free yearly credit reports

Did you know that by law, you have a right to a free copy of each of your credit reports every twelve months? That’s one report from each credit bureau – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

Fact: The Fair Credit Reporting Act is the law that guarantees your right to free yearly credit reports.

Unfortunately, it’s a right that most consumers don’t really use to their advantage. That’s why we put together the information below, to help you understand why and how to use your yearly review to ensure the best credit score possible. If you follow the advice and decide you need help with your credit, call us or complete the form to the right to get the help you need.

Your yearly credit check up

Once every twelve months, you can go to to download a free copy of each of your credit reports. The site has really simple instructions to follow that takes you to each of the three credit bureaus to download your report from that bureau.

It only takes about 5-10 minutes to get everything you need.  Then you can review your reports and see what’s there. You want to look for mistakes and errors that can appear in your credit, as well as look for signs of ID theft, such as extra accounts you didn’t open.

Pop Quiz

Which of the following would be a sign you need credit repair?

a) A collection account for a medical bill you didn’t pay

b) A credit card account you don’t recognize

c) A duplicate mortgage

d) None of the above

Reveal Answer

Tip: Sometimes accounts you’ve legitimately opened will be duplicated on your credit file, so you will have two identical mortgage accounts, which would throw off your debt-to-income ratio.

c) A duplicate mortgage

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If you find anything that’s wrong, then you can make key decisions about what to do. You may need credit repair or credit monitoring for ID theft prevention. Otherwise, you can see where all of your accounts stand and just make sure everything is going right for your credit.

Do you need the review if you already have the services?

If you aren’t using a credit repair and/or credit monitoring service, then your yearly credit report review can determine if you need these services. But if you already have one or both them, should you still review your credit reports?

If you’re using a credit repair service…

Credit repair services aren’t usually something you enroll in and stay enrolled forever. You retain the service until all of the disputed items in your credit report are either removed or verified as correct. So in general, there’s no need to review your credit during or directly after going through the process. After all, the credit bureaus are required to send you a new free copy of your report when items are removed.

If you go through credit repair, wait twelve months and then review your credit reports the next year. That way, you can ensure your credit reports are still clean and error-free, or if you have new items that need correcting.

If you’re using a credit monitoring service…

There are different levels of credit monitoring services. With most services, you get daily credit report monitoring from one credit bureau, but it usually costs more to get monitoring on all three reports.

With that in mind, if you only have one-bureau monitoring, then it’s in your best interest to download the reports from the other two every twelve months and review them to make sure they don’t have anything unique that you need to dispute. The same information should be included, but sometimes mistakes only occur in the report from one bureau.

Of course, if you have 3-bureau monitoring, then you probably have daily report monitoring with alerts set up. Still, actually going through the process of downloading and reviewing your reports can be a good thing. And most monitoring services won’t let you download your reports anytime you want – you get alerts, but you may only get a full report review once or quarterly.

And while alerts are fine for notifying you of negative items and potential fraud, but there’s nothing wrong with a yearly checkup to see where you stand with debt. It may not necessary, but it can definitely be beneficial.

What to look for in your review

Here’s a quick list of things you can identify during your yearly review:

  • Missed payments that weren’t actually missed
  • Duplicated accounts
  • Aliases in your personal contact information that aren’t actually you
  • Collection accounts that aren’t yours
  • Incorrect account statuses
  • Outdated negative items, like a Chapter 13 bankruptcy that’s 8 years old
  • Accounts you didn’t open (a sign of identity theft)
  • Balances you think are too high (also a sign of theft)

Pop Quiz

How long does a Chapter 7 bankruptcy stay on your credit report before it should be removed?

a) 7 years from the date of filing

b) 7 years from the date of final discharge

c) 10 years from the date of filing

d) 10 years from the date of final discharge

Reveal Answer

Tip: A Chapter 7 bankruptcy is ten years, while Chapter 13 is seven; the clock on both starts from the date of final discharge.

d) 10 years from the date of final discharge

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