Your credit report is like a financial performance review: it rates the specifics of your financial history and spending behavior. Plus, it keeps you in tune to any trouble spots or suspicious activity, so you’ve got a clear-cut way to determine if your card has been stolen or used without you knowing.
The importance of annual credit reports
How to request an annual credit report
Unfortunately, some agencies will mislead customers into paying for reports they’ve advertised as free. Somewhere inside the fine print, they may tell you you’re signing up for additional score services or delayed payments. It’s a sneaky tactic – the fact of the matter is, the most reliable free reports come from the three largest credit bureaus.
Steer clear of unreliable third parties when you order your annual credit reports.
How to read your annual credit report
Once you get your hands on your reports, it can be a bit tough to sort through all the numbers and industry language. However, once you know what you’re looking at, you shouldn’t have much trouble at all.
First, make sure all your personal information is there – double check for your name, address and Social Security number. Next, look for any public records that could damage your credit score. If you’ve ever filed for bankruptcy or paid certain court fees, they could show up in your history.
The majority of your report will include items and accounts you have under your name, and will detail whether or not they’re in good standing. If you’re up to date on all your payments, your activity will reflect that. If you have an outstanding balance on your car, mortgage or separate account, you’ll be able to see that as well. Keep in mind, credit reports occasionally come with mistakes. It’s a good idea to compare the information with your personal records.
Don’t wait for an annual credit report
Want to know how to improve credit score numbers? It all starts with you and your personal spending habits. While your annual credit reports can deliver a wake-up call, you shouldn’t need them to make smart purchases.
Financial security doesn’t rely on complicated investments and retirement planning. Simply save a little more than you spend – it’s advice that never grows old. Every time you charge something to your credit card, pay it back as quickly as you can so you don’t get bogged down in late fees and interest. Ultimately, the road to financial stability is paved with smart buying decisions.