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Your credit report can help you map your financial future

Federal law allows you to get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each credit reporting company, and review, correct, and update all of your information. Here’s why it’s important.

What is a Credit Report?

When you make a payment on a credit card or loan, whoever gave you the loan or credit keeps a record of how much and often you pay. These companies report your credit, loan, and payment history to one or more of the credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. These companies combine the information from your different credit, loan and payment reports into a single credit report.

Your credit report can impact your mortgage rates, insurance rates, credit card approvals, apartment applications, other loan requests, and even your job application.

Credit Report vs. Credit Score: What's the Difference?

Your credit report and your credit score are not the same thing. Credit reporting companies calculate your credit score by plugging the information in your credit report into their exclusive credit score formula.

Your credit score allows companies to estimate how likely you are to pay back loans or services they may give you. The higher the score, the more likely. However, the credit scores you get from different companies may not be the same, for a number of reasons:

  • Companies use different formulas to calculate credit scores, and these differences can lead to different results.
  • Companies may produce scores that give results on different scales.
  • Creditors or lender reports don’t always report to every credit reporting company.

Federal law permits you a free annual copy of your credit report from each nationwide credit reporting company, but the same isn’t true for your credit score.

What should I do with my free credit report?

An annual credit report review keeps you on top of your financial status and even helps prevent identity theft. The formulas that calculate credit score are based on many factors, like how much money you owe, how long you’ve owed it, how many new accounts you have, how often you miss or are late with payments, and what type of credit accounts you have.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) say that you should be wary of any company, usually called credit clinics, which claims they can repair your credit. Everything they do can be done yourself, for free!

We help you access your free credit report, so you can avoid dealing with potentially predatory credit clinics, and take control of your credit.


How can I improve my credit score?

The good news is that there are concrete actions you can take to improve your credit score. The caveat is that it’s going to take some time. Here are the top 5 things you can start doing today:

  1. Get a credit card and use it responsibly. Someone who doesn’t have any credit cards at all tends to be a higher risk than someone who has managed credit cards responsibly.
  2. Make payments on time. Missing a payment—even by only a few days—has an extremely negative impact on your credit score.
  3. Reduce your debt. Work to keep your balance low on your credit card(s) and consistently pay off your other debts.
  4. Keep your credit utilization ratio low. That means you should use the smallest amount of your available credit each month.
  5. Avoid applying for multiple lines of credit at the same time. If you have a lot of recent applications for credit, you’re going to lower your score.

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