Understanding Your Credit Report

Your credit score is one of the most important tools you have at your disposal. A good score can help you out financially in several ways. Most utility companies will not charge a deposit if your credit score is good, and many landlords and apartment complexes are more likely to rent to tenants with good credit scores. This is because a high credit score typically corresponds to people who always pay off their debts and fulfill obligations, something that is important to both landlords and utility companies.

The other reason it is important to have a good credit score is more obvious: Having a high credit score will make it much cheaper and easier to borrow money should the need arise. For example, nearly all buyers will need to take out a mortgage when they are looking to buy a home. Having a high credit score can help minimize your interest rate, saving you money in the long run. Like many things in life, knowing your credit score is the first step toward improving it.

There are several ways that you can pull your credit report for free. The three major credit bureaus — TransUnion, Equifax and Experian — will each provide you with one free credit report per year. This service is mandated by federal law and can be accessed via www.annualcreditreport.com. If you want continual credit monitoring, there are other sites that will give you much more frequent updates.

One of the most popular is www.creditkarma.com. Many credit monitoring services start you out with a free trial that can quickly become very expensive, so if you are looking for a truly free credit monitoring site, CreditKarma is one of the best in the business. This site provides a free, weekly update on your credit score, including any new inquiries or hard pulls, new accounts that have been added to your credit report, or any changes in your reported address. It can also help you monitor the last reported balances on all of your lines of credit. If you have the discipline to log in on a regular basis, this can be a great way to stay on top of things and notice any incorrect information or changes that you did not make.

If you are looking for someone to actively monitor your credit for you, a paid subscription service might be a good option. One of the most popular is My FICO. For a small fee, you can instantly view all three of your credit reports, track your credit score and get alerts for any changes to your credit score. This service can also be helpful in the event of identity theft. Once your identity has been compromised, it is important to continue to monitor your accounts closely so that you will know right away if it happens again.

No matter how you do it, be sure to stay on top of your credit score.