Know When Your Credit Report is Free to Obtain and When it Isn’t

In the past, it may have been extremely difficult for consumers to obtain free copies of their credit reports, but new federal laws have put into place a number of mechanisms that allow Americans to obtain these documents at no cost in certain circumstances. For this reason, it’s important that they know exactly when they may be entitled to copies of the information.

There are a large number of circumstances in which borrowers would likely do well to keep close tabs on their credit reports, but they may not always be entitled to receive them completely free of charge. Knowing when and how they can obtain them with no cost can often be crucial to maintaining a healthy credit and financial standing.

The standard credit report availability

The financial overhauls of the last several years resulted in consumers being able to order three free copies of their credit reports every year. One will be made available to all Americans completely free of charge from each of the nation’s three largest credit reporting bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — every 12 months. These can all be acquired through the federal government’s website, which contains gateways to the sites of each of those bureaus, as well as by phone or by mail.

Usually, all a consumer will have to provide to receive one of these documents is their name, address, Social Security number and date of birth, and in some cases an additional security question usually related to specific accounts they may hold. For instance, they may be asked to reveal which lender issued their mortgage, or the dollar amount of their monthly auto loan payment. Those ordering their reports online will be able to view them instantly, while people who submit requests for the documents in other ways must receive them within 15 days of their request arriving at the monitoring bureau in question. In most cases, though, the more information that needs to be verified to issue the document, the longer it will take to send out the reports.

It should also be noted, though, that in addition to the three free credit reports mandated by federal law, some states have added consumer protections which entitle them to even more copies of their reports every year. Obviously, these vary from one state to the next, and most don’t allow for these additional copies, but it might be wise for Americans to look into whether they may be able to benefit from these rules.

Other situations in which consumers can obtain free credit reports

Beyond the availability of standard annual credit reports, borrowers are also entitled by federal law to receive them in certain other circumstances. The most notable of these is when consumers who apply for a line of credit are either rejected outright or given rates that are less favorable than the best available; under the law, whatever information the lenders used to determine that they were ineligible for the best possible terms or the financing altogether must be provided to the borrowers. Often, this means their credit report, credit score, or sometimes both.

Other, potentially less-known allowances are made for those who are currently out of work and looking for a job (as a result of many employers using credit reports to determine whether job applicants are eligible for a position), those on welfare, or those who have been impacted by fraud or identity theft.

Any other people who want to obtain their credit reports beyond their one free annual copies will have to pay small fees to obtain them.

What else to consider

When dealing with credit reports in general, consumers should generally try to make sure all information on them is as accurate as possible. In some instances, data that’s listed on a person’s credit report may not be wholly accurate, for a number of reasons. Often, these are simply the result of typographical errors or other mistakes on the part of credit reporting agencies, but in some cases may be an indicator that a person has been impacted by identity theft. Consequently, keeping close tabs on this information is often of the utmost importance when making sure everything related to credit is exactly as it should be.

Any borrowers who take the time to order copies of their credit reports and check them over for any potentially unfair markings that may be having a negative impact on their standings may want to work with a credit repair company. Doing so may be able to help them get these issues cleared up in a manner that will be more timely than they might have been able to accomplish on their own, and get their finances to be generally more on track as a result.

Posted in Credit Report
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