Person reviewing a printed version of their free credit report

There’s no doubt that your credit score plays a major role in what lenders and others look at when judging your creditworthiness. It’s helpful to know your credit score before attempting to get a loan or credit card, but it’s your actual credit report itself that’s even more important.

Your credit score is a very basic summation of how much credit risk you pose to lenders, but it’s not the only thing you should be concerned with. Knowing what’s on your credit report gives you control of how accurate your credit score is. The details in your credit report are what make your score good, bad, or somewhere in between. It’s up to you to make sure your score is an accurate reflection of your credit history.

Get Your FREE Credit Report

Even if you’re not looking to make a big purchase, it’s a great idea to keep an eye on the contents of your credit report. Plus, even certain employers and many landlords will look at your credit before hiring or renting a property to you. And beyond that, credit card companies you have accounts with will periodically look at your credit for potential credit line increases. 

Your free credit report is available from AnnualCreditReport.com, which is a site set up by the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion). Credit reports from each bureau are available for free, so there’s no billing information you need to enter. All you need is your name, address, social security number, and good knowledge of your recent credit history for verification purposes.

 

Each bureau can issue one free credit report to you per year, so you can either get all three reports at once, or you can spread them out to get each one at intervals that allow you to compare the contents for accuracy over time. The free credit reports are mandated by the Fair Credit Reporting Act and enforced by the FTC, so there’s no reason not to take advantage of the service.

Since they’re free, you might be tempted to get all three at once. While there’s nothing wrong with that, you might want to consider spreading them out. If you don’t have any major purchases your planning for, such as a home loan, then it’s best to get one, examine its contents, get corrections made as needed, and then get your next one four months later to make sure it’s accurate. 

 

If you are planning to purchase a home or get any other large loan, then it might be in your best interest to get all three reports to make sure they’re all reporting the same details and that they’re completely accurate. 

On top of keeping an eye on the accuracy of your credit report, you can also be sure there’s no fraud due to identity theft. Look closely at all details, make sure that your payment history is accurate, that closed accounts state that they’re closed and that there aren’t any credit accounts you don’t remember applying for. 

If anything seems inaccurate or questionable, double-check your personal records, and then contact the bureaus through the contact information on your free credit report(s). Note that you’ll need to contact each bureau individually to ensure that all changes are made.

Use Your Free Credit Report to Build Your Credit

Is your free credit report accurate? If so, great! If not, contact the credit bureaus as mentioned above, and get any corrections made as soon as possible. Whether your report is accurate or needs corrections, you should continue to get your free credit report on regularly as a way to not only watch for inaccuracies but to also build your credit.

Look at your report and you’ll notice that it gives you all the information lenders see and use to judge your creditworthiness. Note that it’s broken down not only by total balances, available credit, and credit limits per account type, but it also lists your debt-to-credit ratio which plays a big role in your credit score. 

Remember, keeping that ratio down to 30% or less will boost your score, and the amount of credit your utilizing makes up 30% of your credit score. Each account also lists the percentage per account, so you can easily see which accounts need the most work.

 

Even more important to your credit score is your payment history, which makes up 35% of your score. Verify that every account you have states “Pays as Agreed” and that all payments show as “Paid on Time.” It can take up to seven years for a late payment to fall off your credit report, and late payments usually show up at 30 days past due—it pays to pay on time!

Your free credit report doesn’t show your current score, but that number can be found through numerous sources. There are online services where you can get your credit score for free, but some do charge a small fee. Many credit card companies offer free credit score tracking as part of their online services, so check your current accounts online for access to your credit score.

Once you’ve double-checked your credit score and verified that your credit report is accurate, if it’s time to apply for a personal loan to cover auto repairs, medical expenses, home improvements, a much-needed vacation, or anything else you’re truly needing. The application process for an online personal loan with Helix by Helix by Lead Bank is extremely fast. It takes minutes to type in your information and apply for a personal loan, seconds to get a decision, and 1 business day to receive the money you need.