By Jamie Wagner, Ph.D.

Checking Your Credit Score with a Credit Bureau

You’ve probably seen commercials advertising different products that allow you to check your credit score. What you may not know is how to accurately check your credit report from the three major credit bureaus—Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. Information from these credit bureaus offer you the most accurate and important information related to your credit history and are most commonly used by lenders when they check your scores. Therefore, these bureaus are important for you to watch and monitor.

Credit Report Rights

The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives you the right to see your credit report from the three major credit bureaus once a year for free. A common mistake that people make is pulling all three reports at once. Follow these simple steps and check your credit all year long for free.

How To Check Your Credit Score

  • Go to annualcreditreport.com and fill out the correct information selecting one of the three credit bureaus.
  • Review your information. Any errors should be reported and fixed following their instructions exactly. If you see any errors, the credit bureau you selected will fix the problems and report them to the other two bureaus.
  • Repeat every four months choosing a different credit bureau.

Checking Your Credit Score: A Timeline

  • In January go to annualcreditreport.com and fill out your information selecting Equifax.
  • Review your information. Make sure you report any errors if you see them.
  • In April go to annualcreditreport.com and fill out your information selecting TransUnion.
  • Review your information. Make sure you report any errors if you see them.
  • In September go to annualcreditreport.com and fill out your information selecting Experian.
  • Review your information. Make sure you report any errors if you see them.
  • Congratulations, you’ve successfully monitored your credit for an entire year.

Why You Should Check Your Credit Score

Mistakes can happen. You need to make sure to regularly check your credit score and report to catch mistakes early before they can have lasting effects. You’ll especially want to make sure your credit is checked, accurate and up to date if you plan to make any large purchases (car, RV, house, etc.). Here are a few common mistakes that you might find on your credit report that you’ll want to report:

  • You may have applied for credit under different names (i.e. Robert Jones vs. Bob Jones).
  • A person reading your application made a clerical error while entering information from a hand-written application.
  • You gave an inaccurate Social Security number (or it was misread by the lender).
  • A loan or credit card payment was inadvertently applied to the wrong account.

In general, it’s a good habit to regularly check your credit score and report to ensure you will be able to get credit when you need it in the future.