You can check your credit report as often as you’d like without impacting your credit score. However, there are limitations to how often you can check your credit report for free. Depending on which platforms you use to check your credit, updated reports may be accessed free of charge on a weekly or monthly basis.
Understanding Your Credit Report
A credit report is a compilation of credit data from information furnishers. It sheds light on how you’ve managed credit over time, and both lenders and creditors evaluate the information to determine if you’re creditworthy.
The three primary credit bureaus – Experian, TransUnion and Equifax – generate credit reports used by financial institutions to make lending decisions. Depending on their findings, you could qualify for loans or credit cards with attractive terms and steep interest rates or be denied credit altogether.
Other entities, like landlords, service providers, auto insurance companies and employers in certain sectors – particularly the financial services industry – also refer to credit reports and scores to make decisions. Their review could impact your security deposit requirement, insurance premiums and whether or not you secure employment.
Credit Score vs. Credit Report
Credit scores are three-digit numbers between 300 and 850 that indicate if you’re a good credit risk – the higher, the better. The information used to compute your credit score is pulled from your credit reports.
The FICO score is the most prevalent credit-scoring model. It’s used by 90 percent of financial institutions to make lending decisions. Here’s how it’s calculated:
- Payment history (35 percent of your FICO score): Do you pay your bills on time? Lenders and creditors want reassurance you’ll repay what you borrow if they extend credit to you. (Note: late payments aren’t reported until accounts are at least 30 days delinquent).
- Amounts owed (30 percent of your FICO score): How much do you owe creditors? What percentage of your credit limit on revolving accounts is in use? A credit utilization rate of 30 percent or lower is ideal for a healthy credit score.
- Length of credit history (15 percent of your FICO score): What’s your credit age, or how long have you managed credit? Consumers who’ve responsibly managed credit for an extended period generally have stronger credit scores.
- Credit mix (10 percent of your FICO score): Do you have a healthy mix of revolving accounts (i.e., credit cards and lines of credit) and installment accounts (i.e., personal loans, auto loans, mortgages, student loans)?
- New credit (10 percent of your FICO score): How often have you applied for credit in recent months? How many new accounts have you opened?
How Credit Reporting Works
Here’s a breakdown of how credit reporting works:
- Data furnishers, including lenders and creditors, report account information monthly.
- The major credit bureaus compile this information to generate updated credit reports.
- Credit information provided by data furnishers is used to compute your credit scores.
What Information is Available on Your Credit Report?
Credit reports consist of four categories- personal information, financial and credit information, credit inquiries, and other public records and collection accounts.
This section includes your name, date of birth, Social Security number and address. In addition, any employment information provided to creditors and lenders when applying for credit is also listed here. Your personal information is used by the credit bureaus to identify you.
Financial and Credit Information
You’ll find information on each credit account you have in this action. It also features the account type and the date it was opened, the loan amount or credit limit, the current outstanding balance, if the account is current or delinquent, and the payment history. If you’ve missed payments in the past, late payment remarks are also included in this section.
A list of financial institutions, lenders, creditors and anyone else who’s retrieved your credit report within the last two years is found in this section. You’ll also notice credit inquiries are grouped into two categories – hard inquiries and soft inquiries. Hard inquiries result from applications for credit and can impact your credit score. However, soft inquiries are involuntary and have no bearing on your credit score.
Other Public Records and Collection Accounts
Public records from federal, state and county courts are found here. These include bankruptcies, repossessions, civil judgments, foreclosures, tax liens and wage garnishments. This section also includes collection accounts or delinquent accounts that were sent to collection agencies.
Why You Should Check Your Credit Report
Credit impacts many areas of your life, so you want to check your credit report often. Doing so allows you to detect inaccurate information right away and file disputes to have it removed or updated. You can also spot fraud sooner and take the necessary steps to resolve identity theft and minimize the likelihood of future occurrences.
If you’re planning to apply for credit soon, you should also take a look at your credit report. Of course, your credit score is important, but it’s even more vital to know what’s in your credit profile since it’s the information used to generate your credit report.
Can You Check Your Credit Report for Free?
Yes, you can check your credit report for free. There are several easy ways to retrieve copies of your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus – Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. More on this shortly.
How Often Can You Check Your Credit Report for Free?
It depends on the platform you select. For example, you could get free access once monthly or annually. Or you can check your credit reports daily if you subscribe to select services offered directly through the credit bureaus.
Are Free Credit Reports Accurate?
In most instances, free credit reports are accurate. However, human error isn’t uncommon and could result in issues with your credit reports, whether you get them for free or pay a fee for access. Remember, the contents of your credit report are compiled based on the information provided to the credit bureaus. So, if incorrect information is sent over, errors will likely be present.
Where Can You Check Your Credit Report for Free
You have several options to get a free copy of your credit report.
Visit Experian.com and request access to your credit report for free. When you sign up for a free account, you’ll also get the following:
- Your FICO Score based on Experian data
- Experian FICO Score monitoring
- Experian credit monitoring and alerts
- Monthly Experian credit report and credit score updates
- Access to Experian Boost to help increase your FICO Score instantly
- Personalized loan and credit card recommendations
- Dark web surveillance and personal privacy scans
You can also use Experian Go if you’re a credit newbie or haven’t yet established credit. It’s a tool that helps you establish and build credit for free. You’ll receive step-by-step guidance on the best course of action to build credit from scratch so you can get one step closer to achieving your financial goals.
Annual Credit Report
AnnualCreditReport.com gives you free copies of your credit report from each credit bureau. You can request one or two at a time or all three at once. Free credit reports are currently available weekly through the end of 2023.
CreditWise is another free platform to view your credit report from TransUnion and Experian. It’s offered by Capital One and also includes credit monitoring, real-time credit alerts, personal information monitoring and suggestions on ways to improve your credit health. You can also view your VantageScore 3.0 from TransUnion.
Credit Karma offers access to your Equifax and TransUnion credit reports. Plus, you can view credit-building tips, get credit alerts and receive personalized offers and resources that can help improve your credit rating.