If you keep a regular eye on your credit report, you’ll notice when identity thieves open accounts in your name and when errors are listed that might cause you problems in the future. Here’s how to do it for free.
US law entitles you to a free yearly credit report directly from each agency, but you’ll have to go elsewhere if you want to get your credit report more frequently. Don’t worry—it’s still free.
Credit Report Basics
There are multiple credit reporting agencies. The “big three” in the USA are Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. When you apply for credit—such as a credit card, loan, or mortgage—the lender pulls a copy of your credit report from one or more of these agencies. It’s up to the lender which agency they use.
These credit reports usually have the same accounts reported on them. For example, if you have two credit cards and an auto loan, you should see those three accounts appear on all of the three reports. However, if you apply for a mortgage, you’ll only see the bank’s inquiry (or “pull”) appear on whichever credit report they looked at.
While the reports should usually show the same information, it’s a good idea to check all three to ensure the information is correct.
Note that, while these services will show you a “credit score,” those credit scores are actually a pretty complicated topic. The credit reporting agency just reports raw data—like a list of your accounts, usage, credit limits, and payment history—and creditors can run that through a number of different models to get the numerical score they use.
For TransUnion and Equifax, Use Credit Karma
After creating your free account, you can sign into the web site and click My Overview > Score Details > Credit Report to view either your TransUnion or Equifax report. Toggle between the two at the top of the page. In…
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