Your credit score is an important component of your financial health, yet not everyone knows how their score looks or how it’s determined.
Fortunately, you can get access to your credit score — and all the details used to determine it— online with websites like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame.
A credit card is not required to get access to this important information, and the entire process is free.
With FreeCreditReport.com, you can get exactly what the website name appears to offer — a free copy of your credit report. While your credit score is a three-digit number (usually between 300 and 850) that shows your credit health, your credit report is a detailed list of information that covers your credit movements over the years.
Checking your free credit report with FreeCreditReport.com won’t hurt your credit since it won’t result in a hard inquiry, yet it can provide valuable information you can use to your advantage.
This website offers a peek at your Experian credit report, specifically. Details you can expect to see include:
- Information on all your credit accounts, including your payment history
- The number of hard inquiries you have
- Potentially negative information including loan defaults, late payments, delinquencies, charge-offs, collections, and public records.
How Does FreeCreditReport.com Work?
Getting access to your Experian credit report with this website is easy and only requires a couple of steps.
All you really need to do is create an account and follow the prompts to include all relevant information needed to see your credit report.
To create an account, you’ll need to provide the following information:
- Your name
- Current and past addresses
- Social Security number
- Date of birth
- Your spouse’s name
- Employment information, including both current and past employers
Once you provide this information and it’s checked for accuracy, you’ll get access to your credit report. It’s a piece of cake.
What Exactly is Included in Your Credit Report?
While we’ve already provided a high-level view of what is included in your credit report, there are a lot of details you’ll want to read through and consider once you get access.
Since mistakes on your credit report can hurt your credit health and credit score over the long run, you’ll want to check your report to make sure every detail is accurate.
Here are the details you’ll see:
- Current Accounts: While there are myriad details on your credit report, the bulk of the details cover your current accounts. This will include the current status of all your bills, your payment history, and any information on late accounts or accounts in default.
- Closed Accounts: You’ll also find a listing of closed credit accounts you’ve had on your credit report, along with details on the status of the closure.
- Credit Inquiries: In addition to your payment history, your credit report will list details on how and when you have applied for credit in the past. Each credit inquiry listing includes the name and contact information for each company making an inquiry, the date the inquiry was made, and the type of business the company is.
- Negative Information: If you’ve had any credit mishaps, the details of those credit bungles will be listed on your credit report. In addition to late payments and accounts in default, this can include tax liens, bankruptcies, civil judgments, accounts in collections, and foreclosures.
If you find a mistake while reading over your credit report, it’s crucial you take steps to have it fixed.
Fortunately, FreeCreditReport.com provides tools that can help you dispute incorrect information online.
Why Should You Care About Your Credit Report?
While it’s easy to pretend your credit report — and your credit score — are inconsequential, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Believe it or not, poor credit could even keep you from renting the apartment you want. Since many landlords will run your credit in order to approve you for the rental, poor credit can lead to a big fat denial.
But, there are additional consequences that could arise when you’ve been careless with your credit.
First off, any employer who hires you has the right to ask your permission to see a modified version of your credit report. If there’s lots of negative reporting and they see it, your poor use of credit could cost you the job.
Since credit scores are frequently used to determine auto insurance rates, you’ll likely pay higher auto insurance premiums if your credit is poor.
Further, you will absolutely pay higher interest rates on everything from credit cards to personal loans and home loans if your credit score is low — and that’s if you can even qualify.
4 Reasons to check your Free Credit Report
You may be wondering why you should bother checking your credit report — especially if you already know your credit score is in good shape.
The reality is, there are notable benefits that come with checking up on your credit reports at least a few times a year. Reasons you should move forward include:
Reason #1: You can’t fix mistakes if you don’t know about them.
If there are mistakes on your credit report and you never take the time to check, they could cause damage to your credit score without you ever knowing why. By checking your credit report, you can see if all the included information is accurate.
If you find mistakes, you can take steps to fix them before they cause unnecessary damage to your score that could be harder to fix later on.
Using a tool, like Experian Boost, can even help you with little work from your end.
Reason #2: Check for identity theft of fraudulent accounts.
According to Experian, checking your credit report is one of the best ways to discover if you have been a victim of identity theft.
Reading through your credit report is a smart way to check for accounts that aren’t yours and may have been opened fraudulently. If you discover fraud, you can take steps to stop it and limit the damage right away.
Reason #3: Figure out ways to boost your credit score.
Checking your free credit report is a great way to figure out areas where you could improve. If you have many late payments on your credit report, for example, it’s very likely your credit score has taken a hit.
Seeing that information in your report may be all it takes to get you to pay future bills on time.
The same is true if you have accounts in collections — maybe even ones you’ve forgotten about.
Checking your credit report is the best way to learn about forgotten accounts in default, which is the first step in remedying these problems for good.
Reason #4: It’s free, so why not?
One final reason to check your credit report is that, well, it’s free.
It’s hard to argue against a service that could let you prevent costly damage to your credit score without charging a dime.
Since FreeCreditReport.com is free and you don’t need a credit card to get started, there are few reasons not to use this service.
Where FreeCreditReport.com Falls Short
While this website is free and easy to use, there’s one area where it falls short — the fact that you only get a credit report from Experian.
The reality is, there are actually three major credit reporting agencies that keep a file of your credit movements:
- and TransUnion
Since banks and other credit issuers don’t always access your credit with the same credit reporting agency, the information on your three credit reports isn’t always the same.
For that reason, getting access to your report from Experian will only protect you to a certain extent; you really need to get all of your credit reports to make the greatest impact.
Fortunately, you can use a website called AnnualCreditReport.com to get access from all three credit reporting agencies once per year.
By taking this extra step, you can also check over your reports from TransUnion and Equifax to check for errors or other problems.
The Bottom Line
Your credit report is important because the details included are used to determine your credit score. If there are negative or incorrect marks on some of your accounts, it’s possible your credit score may suffer unnecessarily.
The best way to avoid credit problems is to keep track of your credit score — and your credit reports — at least once per year and potentially more.
By staying on top of this information, you can avoid costly errors and put yourself in the best position to fight identity theft if you become a victim.
If you ignore your credit report and your credit score, you are leaving your financial future to chance. While this might work out okay for you if you’re lucky, there’s a lot of risk involved in ignoring your credit altogether.
You have nothing to lose by checking over your report, but plenty to gain if you are able to fix errors or find ways to improve your credit score over time.
With that in mind, it’s smart to stop putting it off and check your credit reports today.