Wednesday, December 2, 2009

How to get a credit report for free

Be sure to look at each of your reports every year. It's simple, it's free and it's crucial: Old or inaccurate information could cost you a job, an apartment or a lot of money when you borrow.

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All Americans are entitled to free credit reports every year from each of the three major credit bureaus. The credit reports used to cost as much as $9.50 each.

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.

The reports will not be sent automatically. Each consumer must request reports one of these three ways:

•Go to, which is the only authorized source for consumers to access their annual credit report online for free.

•Call (877) 322-8228.

•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. The brochure, which can be ordered or printed, is available from the Federal Trade Commission. Click here for more information.

A credit report is simply a rundown of your payment history, listing your accounts, balances and your payment behavior for each. It is not a credit score, or FICO, the three-digit gauge of your creditworthiness used by lenders, employers and insurers. But credit scores do use the information on your credit reports in their calculations, so it's important to spot and correct inaccuracies as quickly as possible.

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