It seems like most of our lives these days are affected by our credit reports. To many people, it seems like long lists of mumbo-jumbo, but your credit report is actually quite easy to read. For a primer on reading your credit report, check out Money Bulldog’s post, Credit Report Explained.
Because so much is affected by your credit (even your car insurance rates!), if you don’t have your credit frozen, then you probably should be keeping an eye on your credit report. Money Between identity theft and the possibility of a mistake, not being aware of the contents of your credit report could lead to some costly surprises. Credit monitoring services cost $50 or more a year. But you only get one free credit report a year. So how do you check your credit report regularly without paying a ton of money for it?
There are 3 credit reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. When most people check their credit report, either they only ever check one, or they check all three at the same time. Don’t do this.
Only checking one credit report is a bad idea
There is no law that says that everybody who submits information to one credit reporting agency has to submit it to all. Most do, but there could be a surprise somewhere. Or there could be a typo. There was an incident a few months ago where Equifax listed the minimum payment on a collections account I’m paying was $60, but that I was only paying $50. In reality, $50 was the agreed upon payment and they initiated the payments, so I couldn’t possibly pay less than the minimum. If I was only checking one of the other two companies, I would have never caught that.
Checking all three credit reports at the same time is a bad idea
Why is checking all three at the same time a problem? Because you can only do it once a year if you are trying to avoid fees! Now you have to wait an entire year before you can check again. Instead, stagger them.
Say you check Experian in January. Then, in May, check your TransUnion report. In September, get our Equifax report. Four months later, it’s January and you can get your Experian again. My staggering your checks every 4 months, you are getting a free credit report at steady intervals throughout the year.
- How To Freeze Your Credit Report
- Four Ways to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
- Get Your Credit Answers: Get a copy of your free credit report