Accessing your credit report has never been easier. You can now receive weekly credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus, TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. This program was set to expire in 2023, but the Federal Trade Commission announced in October that it would become permanent.
Previously, you could only request a free copy of your credit report once a year from each credit agency.
With online scammers continuing to target new victims and hackers around the world inventing new tactics to gain access to your financial information, free access to your credit profile can help you keep a close eye on your accounts.
Reviewing and understanding your credit report is a key part of being financially responsible. Credit reports show, in detail, all credit usage, payment activity and court actions taken based on those accounts. When you look at your report, the activity should look familiar. If it doesn’t, the potentially nefarious activity should be investigated further. Wrong information or fraudulent accounts not only impact you immediately, but there are long-term effects to be aware of as well.
“Your credit rating means more than whether or not you are able to open a credit card,” said Monica Dwyer, a vice president and wealth adviser for Harvest Financial Advisors. “It can sometimes determine whether or not you get a good or a great interest rate on your next home or car purchase -- or whether you can get the loan at all. If you rent, it can be the deciding factor on whether you can even rent or not.”
Credit activity also has a direct impact on your credit score. For instance, late payments and high credit usage will lower your score, making it more difficult to open lines of credit -- including products like mortgages -- in the future.
To access the free weekly reports, visit AnnualCreditReport.com and begin the process of requesting your reports. You’ll be asked for your personal information and then get linked to the three bureaus’ websites where there will be a series of questions to verify your identity. Once you’ve proven who you are, that agency’s report on you will be available for review. Verify all the information is correct and download a copy for your records.
If, after reviewing your credit, all three are accurate, then congratulations: You haven’t been a victim of identity theft. On the other hand, any fraudulent accounts or incorrect info should be disputed with the specific bureau that provided that report. Also, keep in mind, this is for a credit report and not a credit score. Those can be obtained by the credit reporting agencies via their respective monitoring services.
Also note that reviewing your credit report is different from credit monitoring, which proactively monitors your credit (among other things) and alerts you when activity is detected. If you’re looking for hands-off, proactive protection of your credit and identity, consider a paid-for service like LifeLock.
The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.