Originally published in the Kenosha News
By Health and Well-Being Educator, Mary Metten
The first time I attempted to take out an auto loan, I was denied.
As I sat there, slightly embarrassed I thought, ‘How is that possible?’ I always paid my bills on time, I had a full-time job, and was trying to purchase a car well within my means. I then learned that I did not have enough credit for the approval. At the time, I had no idea what that really meant and had honestly never even seen my credit report.
Not paying much or close attention to this is something I had in common with many others; it is said that about 59 percent of Americans do not check their credit report annually. Some people may not want to see bad news they know is lurking, yet others simply do not think of credit reports until they want to take out a loan. In reality, your credit can be a factor in many other circumstances — such as renting an apartment or home, part of a job application process or trying to get decent insurance rates.
Credit history, credit reports, and credit scores are different, but interrelated concepts. Your credit score is a calculated number that represents your creditworthiness and is based on information from your credit report, which is a detailed record of your credit history — the record of your borrowing and paying debts.
Credit scores can vary, as it is an algorithm measuring your credit risk and is a reflection of the activity on your credit report. Oftentimes, people get fixated on that three digit number; however, it is important to realize the information on your credit report is the catalyst to your score.
Since 2003, the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act has required the three major consumer credit reporting companies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, to provide a credit report every 12 months for free to consumers that request it.
A website, mailing address, and phone number was created and is jointly operated by those three companies for those requests. Within the credit report request, you need to provide your legal name, Social Security Number, date of birth, current address and previous addresses for the past two years:
You can access the reports via:
Mail: You have to complete the official Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service; P.O. Box 105281; Atlanta, Ga., 30348-5281. Phone: 1-877-322-8228.
2/2, 6/6, and 10/10
While you can request and receive all three credit reports at the same time, it is recommended to stagger obtaining the reports throughout the year. This allows you to have a fairly regular update of what is within the reports and monitor changes as time passes.
UW-Extension’s Check Your Free Credit Report Campaign suggests using the dates 2/2, 6/6, and 10/10 since they are easy to remember and roughly every four months.
For more information about UW-Extension’s Check Your Free Credit Report Campaign and to sign up for email reminders, visit https://fyi.uwex.edu/creditreport/.