What is a credit report and what should I do with it?

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Your credit report provides a snapshot of your credit history and breaks down many of the factors that determine your credit score.  Studies have shown that serious errors that affect credit scores are common on credit reports.  Recognizing the importance of individuals’ credit, the federal government requires each of the major credit reporting agencies to provide a free credit report annually.  Go to www.annualcreditreport.com to order your free credit report from Equifax, Trans Union, and/or Experian.  You can also visit the credit reporting agencies’ websites directly.

Review your credit report regularly and check for errors.  If you see any errors you can dispute them by contacting the company or lender in question or by contacting any of the three reporting agencies (each has a dispute form on its website).  Monitoring your credit report will also enable you to detect when someone else has opened an account in your name and thus help you thwart identity theft.  Your free credit report will not give you your credit score; you'll have to pay ($7.95) for that.   It's a good idea to check your credit score before you have to apply for credit.   The higher your score, the more favorable interest rate you will receive.  Remember, you cannot "fix" your credit score, but over time, you can improve it.

You can view a sample credit report with explanations of how to read it here.

You can view more details about the dispute process and even a sample letter here.

If you are an international student and do not have an social security number, please click here for instructions on obtaining your credit report.