I don’t care one bit about your credit score because it is only a reflection of your ability to get in (and stay in) debt. However, there is value in periodically reviewing your credit report. Let’s talk about why and when.
Why and When
You should look at a copy of your credit report (at least one of them) every year or so, just to verify everything is in order. Identity theft is a HUGE issue in our country, and reviewing your credit report is an easy way to keep an eye out for issues there. You also should consider reviewing your report if you’re fighting a big mess of debt, as it will help you to know what companies are reporting about your behavior as it regards to repayment. Lastly, you should review your report a few months before you go to apply for any type of loan or application where your credit will be an issue. I teach folks to avoid debt, but if you are going to apply for anything where a credit report will be run (loan application, home rental, new job, etc.), you want to make sure your report is free of errors.
There are three nationwide reporting companies for consumer credit: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Reports from any of the three companies should have similar (sometimes exactly the same) info. Your credit score often differs a bit because of the scoring methodology, but since you have to pay to get your credit score, I wouldn’t bother with that. However, you can, by law, get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies through annualcreditreport.com. You can either get a copy from all three at once or space them out over time. Getting them all at once lets you compare, but spacing them out lets you tackle one at a time and if issues are found, clear those up before moving to the next one.
Which Report is Best?
Based on how easy I believe the reports are to digest, I prefer Equifax, Experian, then Trans Union (in that order). That’s just my personal preference based on the reports I’ve used in the past. They all give you the information you’ll need and all offer an easy way to dispute inaccuracies. No matter which you choose, don’t be afraid to access annualcreditreport.com and find out what creditors are saying about you and fix any problems.