Managing your annual credit report can feel so daunting. It’s like facing down a huge stack of dishes or pile of laundry. Or getting on all your exercise clothes to head to the gym. The very thought of it makes you want to take a nap instead. But experience tells us that the anticipation of these tasks is usually worse than actually doing them. And you feel a sense of relief and accomplishment when they’re done.
Steps to Manage your Annual Credit Report
So, rather than worrying about what may be lurking in your annual credit report, get on top of it. Since just knowing where to begin can be the biggest barrier, we’ve put together this step-by-step guide to simplify things.
1. Request your Credit Report(s)
There are three major credit bureaus. You’ll need to check each one. You’re entitled to one free credit report per year from each bureau. You can pull all three at AnnualCreditReport.com, or pull them individually yourself. Some people like to put a reminder on their calendar every four months and review them one at a time. For example, review Equifax in January, review Transunion in July, and review Experian in October. Remember, it doesn’t damage your credit score to check your own credit. Also, you can get a free credit report if you’ve been denied credit, even if you’ve already ordered one in the past year.
2. Review the Report
Now that you’ve got it, what do you do with it? First, make sure all the accounts listed are actually yours and there are none missing. Next, make sure your payment history is reflected accurately. This is crucial since your payment history is one of the biggest factors in creating your credit score. Next, make sure anything in the inquiries section is valid, meaning you gave permission for that vendor to check your credit. Finally, check for any negative information that is still being reported, but shouldn’t be. Delinquencies and Chapter 13 bankruptcies can only be reported for seven years, while Chapter 7 bankruptcies can be shown for 10 years. Also, make sure that any previously disputed information has been corrected.
3. Dispute Any Inaccuracies
It’s a fairly straightforward process to open up a dispute and get it sorted out online. You’ll answer questions about what you’re disputing and why, and provide any paperwork that backs up your claim.
4. Consider Putting a Freeze on Your Annual Credit Report
If you’re worried about fraud, you can request a security freeze. This type of freeze prevents lenders from pulling your credit, thereby reducing the chance that someone can open an account in your name. But know that you’ll have to undo the freeze when you want to apply for credit. As an alternative, you can put a fraud alert on your credit, so lenders will know to verify your identity before issuing credit.
5. Adjust Your Credit Behaviors as Necessary
If your annual credit report is showing some late payments or that you have high balances on some of your accounts, commit to paying on time and paying down your debt to improve your score.
It’s so much better to keep on top of your credit report rather than deal with an ugly surprise when you really need a glowing report. You can make things even simpler by ordering your complete credit profile and credit monitoring services from Banks.com.