Should You Request Credit Reports Annually or More Frequently?

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Simple steps can be taken to avert crises. If you want to safely maintain your car, check your oil percentage and tire pressure. If you want to keep your house from burning down, check your burners and and the oven. What about your finances? In order to ensure that you’re on a path to a steady financial future, it is important to request your credit reports at minimum, on an annual basis. Checking your credit reports on a regular basis ensures that you know your current credit standing. Good credit will allow you to take out loans or get a better rate on your mortgage, financial opportunities that can end up saving you thousands of dollars in the long run.

Something this important surely must be complicated to check, right? Not at all. The US Government extended a hand to the people in passing the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003. While it presents a handful of advantages for consumers, the direct result of this legislation is AnnualCreditReport.com, the website where you’ll be able to annually check your credit report from the three credit giants. The best part is it won’t cost you a cent.

Each of the three national credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, Transunion) will allow consumers one free credit report annually. The process is simple, just plug the requested personal information into the secure website and you will receive your credit report. AnnualCreditReport.com will allow you to download all three at once, or you can check them individually throughout the year.

AnnualCreditReport is the only way to obtain your credit reports for free. Equifax, Experian, and Transunion have options to purchase premium credit report services, but any attempt to obtain the free reports will link you back to AnnualCreditReport.com. Here’s what you can expect from the three major credit reporting companies:

Equifax will sell you a combined, comprehensive document containing all three credit scores for $29.95. The Equifax 3 in 1 Credit Report with FICO Score gives you copies of credit reports from each of the three agencies. Monitoring services are available from each of the credit bureaus, too.

See the Top 10 Credit Monitoring Services for 2013

Experian offers an unlimited credit monitoring service for $4.95 on the first month, $14.95 for subsequent months. Transunion will sell you the credit score, credit rating, and credit report along with monitoring services for $16.95 per month.Other plans are available from the other agencies for as low as $4.95 per month.

These premium services are recommended for those who spend a lot of time working with personal finances, but for most the free AnnualCreditReport.com should suffice. The credit reports themselves are invaluable tools for monitoring your financial status, but the majority of institutions are primarily concerned with the credit score. The credit score itself can be purchased on AnnualCreditReport.com

Whether you think you have perfect credit or miserable credit, checking your credit reports can make all the difference for your financial situation. Remember that you will only to be able to retrieve each of your three free reports once a year, so access these records after a key period in order to get the most of your searches. Laws have been placed to limit the power of businesses and aid consumers, but ultimately the power lies in the individual financal decisions made in your household.