How Should I Choose a Credit Report Company?
When choosing a company to provide a credit report, you should take note of the different systems and laws in your country. For example, the United States uses a scoring system, while credit reports in the United Kingdom simply list your credit history. However, there are some general principles which apply in most countries.
The first thing to ask before choosing a firm is what information they hold in your credit report. In some cases, a loan application may only be recorded by the reporting firm which receives the relevant credit check request from the lender. Generally, you will want to pick the firm which offers the most detail, but in some countries you may need to get multiple credit histories to cover the entire picture.
If you live in a country that uses credit scoring, look for a credit report firm which breaks down the details. A credit score can be made up of several factors, including the types of borrowing you’ve made, how much you’ve borrowed, how long you have borrowed for, and how regularly you have repaid on time. If you can get a credit history that shows the different categories, you’ll get a better idea of areas you might need to work on to improve your eligibility for credit.
Different credit report companies have different pricing options. Some will only offer a one-off check for a set fee, while others will offer unlimited checks for a monthly or annual subscription. If you regularly apply for credit or are concerned about identity theft, you may wish to check more often and subscription deals may work out to be a better value. You may also find that in your country you are entitled to one free report a year, though this may not be as complete as the paid reports.
If you decide to check your credit report only now and again, the best time to do so is before any major credit applications, such as a mortgage or renting a property. Checking your credit history first will avoid the risk of being rejected because of incorrect information in the report. Local laws vary, but usually you will be allowed either to demand incorrect details are corrected, or to attach a note so that lenders can see you have challenged a report. Usually checking your own record won’t affect your credit rating, but this may not be the case in some countries.
I heard on one of those financial radio talk shows that you can have your credit report and score sent to you automatically each year.
I love this idea, as it is one less thing to think about, and with seeing it yearly I would imagine that it would be able to more easily track changes in my credit report as opposed to getting it checked every now and then and trying to track back and figure out something that could have happened in the last five years.
The last time I did check my credit report and score, I did the 3 in 1 credit report and score, just meaning that I used a site that would go to three credit reporting companies and get those reports and scores. It was super convenient because it was an online credit report company.
@rugbygirl - That's good advice, but remember that while in the US, credit reports are free, credit scores are not. You will always have to pay a small fee (less than $10, I think) if you want to know the actual score. You should be able to buy it without signing up for credit monitoring, etc.
The three credit reporting bureaus usually have the same information, but not always, which is why it's important to check them all. What I do is check one every four months instead of doing all three at once, once a year. That way, if an error appears, I'm more likely to catch it sooner than if I wait a whole year. So I might do Transunion in January, Equifax in May, and Experian in September, for instance.
I usually check them online but I have a credit freeze in place so sometimes it won't let me - which is how I know you can also order the free annual reports by mail!
I want to make sure that US users know that in this country, you do not have to pay for an annual credit report. thanks to a relatively new law, you can pull your credit report once per year from each of the three credit bureaus (Experian, Transunion, and Equifax). It won't hurt your credit score and it won't cost you.
There's a phone number you can call to order it, or you can view the report online and print it. It's a good idea to check each of the three reports every year because it helps you spot identity theft or errors *before* you're trying to, for instance, apply for a mortgage!
When you're looking for the annual report, make sure to find the official free website. You won't have to sign up for any paid service to get the report. (Though you will be offered credit monitoring and other paid products, the report itself is free.) You will *not* have to enter your credit card number!
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