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January 15, 2020

You’re getting your financial life in order in 2020. Yesterday, we explained how to get your credit report. Now that you have it, you want to know what it means. Here’s where to start.

What’s a credit report? It’s a summary of your credit history. It lists personal information (name, address, Social Security number), payment history on credit accounts (like mortgages, student loans, credit cards), and public records (like if you’ve filed bankruptcy). Read the report carefully. Make sure the information is correct:

  • Personal information – are the name and addresses correct?
  • Accounts – do you recognize them? Is the information correct?
  • Negative information – do you recognize the accounts here? Is the information correct?
  • Inquiries – do you recognize the places you applied for credit?

What if you don’t have a credit report or your report is blank? You might not have a credit history if you haven’t had a credit card or taken out a loan. To build a credit history, you’ll need to open accounts that are included in a credit report. For example, you could apply for a secured card, where you pay a security deposit to show the bank you’re committed to paying back what you borrowed. It’s very important to pay these off on time though, or it could end up hurting your credit.

If you find mistakes on your report, you can take steps to fix them. Tomorrow’s blog will tell you how. If you want to get a head start, you can read Fixing Your Credit, Credit Repair, and Credit Repair Scams.

January 14, 2020

Now that you know why credit matters, it’s time to get your credit in order. Sometimes the hardest part is getting started. The first step is to pull your credit report.

How do you get your credit report? Request a free copy at annualcreditreport.com or by calling 1-877-322-8228. Other sites may charge money or may be set up to steal your personal information.

Here’s what to expect when you go to annualcreditreport.com: First, you’ll fill out a form with your name, birth date, and Social Security number. Make sure you’re using a secured internet connection, like at home – not public Wi-Fi.

Next, you’ll pick which reports you want. You’re entitled to a free report each year from each of the nationwide credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Sometimes one bureau will have slightly different information than the others. So, you’ll want to make sure all three reports are accurate. You can get the reports all at once or stagger your requests to keep an eye on things throughout the year. The choice is up to you.

Last, you’ll answer questions about the person you know best – you. They may be about prior addresses, loans, or other personal information. This is to make sure that it’s really you ordering your report. If you have trouble with the online questions, you can call 1-877-322-8228.

Then, you’ll get a copy of your credit report. You can look at it then or download it to review later. Just remember to keep the report stored securely – either under lock and key if it’s paper, or on a password-protected device if it’s digital.

For more tips, read Free Credit Reports. Curious about what to do next? Stay tuned for our next two blogs about how to read your credit report and how to fix any mistakes on it. Each day you’re moving closer to getting a handle on your credit in the new year.