How to Get Your Free Annual Credit Report

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By Kristine McKinley

Unfortunately the holiday season usually brings an increase in credit card fraud and identity theft, so right after the holidays is a great time to check your credit report. Following is why, when and how to check your credit report…

Why you should check your credit report

* to check for errors

* to check for fraud and identity theft

* to get the best interest rates

* more and more people are relying on credit scores – car insurance, employers, etc.

When to check your credit report:

* Once a year if you have good credit and don’t anticipate any large purchases in the near future

* Before a major purchase, such as a new home, new car, etc. – should request your credit report 6 months ahead of a big purchase so you have time to correct any errors

* If you’ve been denied a credit card, loan or other product or service because of your credit (you are entitled to a free credit report if you have been denied credit based on information found in your report)

* If you suspect that your identity has been stolen

* If you are starting a plan to get out of debt or repair your credit.

How to check your credit:

There are three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion), and they are required to provide you with one free credit report each year. The three agencies do not always share the same information, so it’s important to check all three.

You can order all three credit reports at one time, but it may be a better idea to check one company one month, wait a few months, then check another company, then the third company a few months later. This way you are getting three free credit reports a year, and you are checking several times a year, so you are more likely to catch errors and/or fraud.

Go to www.annualcreditreport.com to request your free credit report online. This is the only authorized source for consumers to check their credit report online for free. There are commercials and websites for other companies who claim to offer your credit report online for free, but they are generally selling a service or they are a scam.

In addition, you can call 1-877-322-8228, or you can write for your free credit report at: Annual Credit Report Request Service, PO Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

Finally, you can purchase a 3-in-1 report, which is basically getting all three reports from each of the credit bureaus. This is a good idea if you have never requested your credit report before, or if you suspect fraud. You can purchase your 3-in-1 credit report at www.myfico.com

Kristine A. McKinley, CPA, and CFP®, offers financial and tax planning on an hourly, fee-only basis. She specializes in helping home based and online business owners understand and minimize their income taxes.

Is credit card debt hurting your credit score? Learn how to boost your credit score and how to start living debt free at http://www.moneywisecoach.com

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