Honest-to-goodness free credit reports
Fortunately, consumers can look at their credit reports for free and can dispute any inaccuracies they find on them. While there are plenty of flashy television commercials and Internet ads from companies offering everything from credit repair and monitoring to no-cost or low-cost copies of your reports, few of them mention that the federal government has put up a site that is absolutely free to consumers wanting to see what information is shared about them when they apply for loans.
The free site, annualcreditreport.com, allows consumers to pull credit reports once every 12 months. The reports are from the three major credit reporting bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Want to pull your reports without having to go through the Internet? No problem. Just call the toll free number at (877)322-8228 and request copies of your reports.
By the way, make sure you’ve got your printer up and running if you’re reviewing your reports on the Internet. Yes, you’ll get a link where you can access them later, but a hard copy of the report as pulled is good insurance for those of us who tend to lose such links.
Reviewing those reports is only half the battle. The other half involves disputing inaccurate information in your credit history.
And you might be surprised at how inaccurate that information can be at times. Justin Moore, president of the Mortgage Bankers Association of Arkansas, said those little inaccuracies can add up and correcting them could drop your interest rate on a mortgage by up to 0.5 percent – that translates into thousands of dollars saved over the life of the loan.
Making sure you’ve got an accurate credit report when you go to take out a loan can be a time-consuming process but it’s worth the effort. It’s important to note that the dispute process isn’t overly difficult, but it does take time. Once a credit reporting bureau receives a dispute letter, it must investigate the matter and that doesn’t happen overnight.
In other words, the best time to dispute any inaccuracies on your credit report is not when you’ve got a loan application pending. A wise tactic is to simply make a note to pull your reports every 12 months, review the information on them and dispute anything that’s not correct.
That process isn’t as difficult as you might believe. When you pull your reports from annualcreditreport.com, you’ll also find information from each bureau detailing how you can dispute incorrect information.
Moore listed some items on credit reports that can lower your credit scores:
? Payments to credit accounts that are at least 30 days late.
? High credit card balances.
? Credit inquiries from potential lenders.
? Newly established credit – lenders want to see a solid credit history and evidence the borrower takes care of debts.
? Too many credit accounts – lenders don’t want to see evidence that a borrower may be overextended.
? Judgments, tax liens, repossessions, foreclosures and bankruptcies obviously lower credit scores
Any of those items, whether they are accurate or not, should be addressed by anyone wanting to take out a loan.
Column written and distributed to Arkansas publications on behalf of the Mortgage Bankers Association of Arkansas.
Benton resident. Rogue journalist. Recovering attorney. Email = Ethan@FirstArkansasNews.net.