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How to Get a Free Annual Credit Report

“Where and how can we get a free annual credit report? Read this now to find out!”

Getting a Free Annual Credit Report

All Americans are entitled to a free credit report every year, from each of the three major credit bureaus. The free credit reports, which used to cost as much as $9.50 each, come as a result of the passage of the 2003 Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act.

Thanks to the law, the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian, are each required to provide consumers, upon request, a free copy of their credit report once every 12 months from a centralized source. This centralized source includes a Web site, a toll-free telephone number and a postal address.

The reports will not automatically be sent out. Consumers who want their credit reports must initiate the request in one of the following three ways.

1. Online:
Go to www.annualcreditreport.com, which is the only authorized source for consumers to access their annual credit report online for free. Be careful not to make a mistake in the URL — some opportunistic entrepreneurs have staked out the URLs that are close in spelling, and they’ll try to sell you the reports, instead of giving them for free.

2. By phone:
Call (877) 322-8228. This may be the choice for those who aren’t Internet-savvy.

3. By mail:
You may complete the form on the back of the Annual Credit Report Request brochure, and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA, 30348-5281.

You’ll be able to order all three credit reports at one time, or at different times throughout the year. It’s your choice. But be sure to order from the centralized agency. If you go directly to the credit reporting agencies, you will be charged unless you fit another criteria for a free report.

The 2003 law did not eliminate the other ways to receive a free credit report. You’re still entitled to a free credit report if: you’ve been denied a loan, insurance policy or job based on your credit report; you’re applying for unemployment or receive public assistance; and you currently reside in a state that already offers an annual free credit report from each credit reporting agency (Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey and Vermont. Georgia residents are entitled to two free annual credit reports from each credit reporting agency). More at How to get your free credit report

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How to Check Your Credit Score

“Wondering how to check your credit score? Let us help. Read more below!”

Tips on How to Check Your Credit Score

Credit scores can be a scary thing. In a nutshell, they’re a specific number credit bureaus assign to you, one that quickly encapsulates your entire credit history and assesses your financial credibility as an individual. Although they’re merely comprised of a three-digit number between 300 and 850, they directly influence some of the most important financial facets of your life, from the mortgage rates on your home to the potential loans available to you as a student or a first-time car buyer. If that wasn’t enough, bad credit scores also make it tougher to start a small business, obtain insurance, and even obtain a job in some situations — an issue that has only become more pervasive since the economic collapse of ’08 and a general tightening of credit standards by regional banks.

Like most scores, you credit score is a culmination of multiple components (in this case five). The first and largest portion of your scores relies on your payment history — whether you’ve paid your bills on time or neglected them — but it’s quickly followed by the amount of money you owe, the amount and type of credit you possess, the length of your credit history and how long it has been since you last opened a credit line. Your given score is a crucial factor, if not the most important factor, potential money lenders use to evaluate your risk level. The higher the credit score or rating, the less risky you’ll likely appear and the greater the economic opportunity afforded to you will be. Or, you hope so, anyway.

However, although each of three major credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — offer a free copy of your credit report once a year in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1970, none of them offer free access to your official credit score unless you pay an upwards of $5. Thankfully, credit-monitoring websites like Credit Karma and Credit Sesame offer free estimates of your credit score without adversely effecting your credit, whenever you’d like and as often as you’d like. It’s the closest thing to an official FICO score as you’re going to get.

Here’s our quick guide on how to check your credit score.

Check your credit report (and score estimate) using Credit Karma
Step 1: Create a Credit Karma account — Navigate to the main Credit Karma homepage, click the orange Get started now button and enter your appropriate email address and password before click the blue Next Step button to create a user account.

Step 2: Enter your personal information — Once directed to Step 2, enter your personal information in the resulting text fields, quickly listing your name, current address, birthday, and the last four digits of your social security number among other information. When finished, click the blue Next Step button to create a user account.

Step 3: Confirm your identity — Once directed to Step 3, confirm your identity by correctly answering the three or four resulting questions in order. To do so, check the bubble directly left of the correct answer below the corresponding question. Questions vary, but they often include information regarding your previous county of residence, loans and other pertinent information.

Step 4: View your credit score — Once properly completed, your TransUnion Credit Profile will be properly linked and verified. Generally, a score hovering around 650 is considered okay, with a score an upwards of 700 being good. Anything below 600 is trouble. More at HOW TO CHECK YOUR CREDIT SCORE

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What is a Good Credit Score

“You might have asked yourself, over and over, what is a good credit score? Let us help you answer that question. Read more now!”

Determining What is a Good Credit Score

When it comes to your credit, it’s important to know how you stack up. Do you have good credit? Excellent credit? Poor credit? How can you find out? In most cases, the easiest way to determine the health of your credit is to look at your credit score, a numerical value that reflects a mathematical analysis of your debt, your payment history, the existence of liens or other judgments, and other statistical data collected by the credit bureaus. In other words, your credit score is the compact, simplified version of your entire credit history, all rolled up into one tidy three-digit number.

Why Do You Need Good Credit?
The importance of having good credit can’t be understated. From helping you get a loan, to qualifying you for a great job, good credit simply makes life easier and less expensive.

In the eyes of lenders, employers, insurance agents, and a host of other people and entities, your credit score represents how responsible and even how ethical you are. For example, lenders look at your credit score to determine not only your ability, but your willingness to repay a loan. Insurance companies view an individual with a good credit score as someone who is trustworthy and less likely to commit insurance fraud. Employers look at credit scores as a way to determine whether a candidate will be a dependable new employee.

A bad score, however, can prevent you from being able to purchase a home, work in certain industries, and will wind up costing you a bundle in higher interest rates and fees. However, if you understand what hurts your credit score, you can make an effort to fix bad habits and improve your credit rating.

The Three Major Credit Agencies
Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion
There are three major credit agencies that provide consumer credit information (including credit scores) to the majority of interested parties: Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. Each reporting agency collects information about your credit history from a variety of sources, including lenders, landlords, and employers, as well as other sources. These includes public records, current and past loans, your payment history, and other data. They then rate your performance using a proprietary scoring system to come up with a credit score.

Because each agency may access different information and has its own formula for calculating your creditworthiness, it is not uncommon for someone to have three different credit scores.

Understanding Credit Scores
Your credit score is a three-digit number that, without context, may mean very little to you. Here is a breakdown of how lenders, insurance agencies, and employers all view your credit score:

Excellent Credit: Credit Score Above 800
If your credit score is above 800, you have an exceptionally long credit history that is unmarred by things such as late payments, collections accounts, liens, judgments, or bankruptcies. Not only do you have multiple established lines of credit, but you have or have had experience with several different types of credit, including installment loans and revolving lines of credit. You generally have a stable work history, usually with one company. More at What Is a Good Credit Score – Understanding Credit Ratings & Ranges

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