Common Questions About Your Free Annual Credit Report

Now that you know the importance of learning your credit score and getting your free annual credit report, you probably have a few questions.

Here are a few commonly asked questions about your credit report.

1.   Why should I get a copy of my free annual credit report?

In your effort to control credit card debt (and other forms of debt), knowing and tracking your credit score or FICO score is extremely important.

Your credit score shows you how the financial world sees you. Are you seen as a high risk? If so, you may be denied more credit, or the interest rates you are charged may be much higher than if you could develop a higher credit score, and you can - but more about that later.

You also want a copy of your credit report to make sure the information in it is accurate. Yes, the credit bureaus make mistakes too and mistakes can be corrected. But first you have to know what is in your report.

Checking your credit score on a regular basis with a free annual credit report is also an excellent way to guard against identity theft. If someone steals your credit card number or Social Security number and uses them to create debt, that debt can show against you on your credit report.

2.   What information do I need to provide to get my free annual credit report?

You will need to provide basic information, like your name, address, Social Security number and your date of birth. If you have not lived at your current address for more than 2 years, you will have to provide your previous addresses for the last 2 years.

In addition, to maintain the security of the private information contained in your file, the credit bureaus may ask you questions that only you can answer. For example, they could ask you the amount of your monthly mortgage payment.

3.   How long does it take to get my free annual credit report after I order it?

According to the FTC:

"If you request your report online at www.annualcreditreport.com, you should be able to access it immediately. If you order your report by calling toll-free 1-877-322-8228, your report will be processed and mailed to you within 15 days. If you order your report by mail using the Annual Credit Report Request Form, your request will be processed and mailed to you within 15 days of receipt."

Note: If the nationwide consumer reporting company (or credit bureau) needs more information to verify your identity, it may take longer to receive your report.

Also, there may be times when the credit bureaus have an exceptionally high number of requests and your report may be delayed, or you could be asked to re-submit your request. You will always be told if that is the case.

4.   What are the situations where I might be eligible for a free copy of my credit report?

According to US federal law, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report if a company takes "adverse action" against you. For example: if they deny your application for credit or insurance, or deny you employment based on your credit report.

You must request your credit report within 60 days of receiving notice of this adverse action. The notice you receive will give you the name and contact information for one of the credit bureaus.

You are also entitled to a free copy of your credit report if:

  • you are unemployed and plan to look for a job

  • you are on welfare

  • your report is inaccurate because of fraud.

Otherwise the credit bureaus can charge you up to $9.50 for another copy of your credit report within a 12 month period.

5.   Should I order a report from each of the three major credit bureaus?

That decision is up to you. The information that each of the consumer reporting companies has about you may be slightly different. For that reason, it is probably a good idea to get a free annual credit report from each credit bureau at some point.

6.   Should I order my free yearly credit report from all three of the credit bureaus at the same time?

To read our recommendations about getting your free annual credit report, click here.

For more help with debt problems, look here for the next step in our Debt Ditch Solution.

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