Is AnnualCreditReport.com Enough for Your Credit Management?
There are credit reports and credit scores, and then there's credit management. You can't have the latter without the former, so it's crucial to know how to access and use your credit reports and credit scores to best advantage in your credit monitoring efforts.
The easiest and cheapest way to obtain your credit reports is from the government-sponsored website AnnualCreditReport.com, the free service run by the three credit reporting bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, each of the bureaus is required to provide you with a free annual credit report every year.
These credit reports are important to you because they include the information lenders want to know before approving your loan, such as how many and what type of loans you already have, your credit card balances and payment history, and who has already requested your credit information.
But your credit report does not include one very important aspect of your credit history: your credit score. That's the three-digit number that represents how creditworthy you are. The bureaus all charge you a fee for your credit score.
When spaced out over 12 months, credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com provide a cost-effective credit monitoring overview that can suffice for some consumers. But is that enough for your own personal credit management needs?
You may, for a variety of reasons, want to go beyond the limitations of three free annual credit reports a year, preferring to track your credit history more closely than every few months. After all, do you keep track of the balance in your checking or savings account only three times a year?
Perhaps you want continuous access to your credit report to monitor any suspicious activity that could indicate identity fraud or theft, or errors that can negatively affect your credit score. Maybe you plan to apply for a line of credit to finance a major purchase, like a home or car, and want to time your purchase so that your credit report and credit score qualify you for the best possible interest rate. Or maybe you're focused on improving your overall credit information and want to track it on a monthly basis.
Whatever your motivation, you can find the depth and flexibility you need through services like FreeScore.com, which offers its members up-to-date credit reports and credit scores every month.
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