One of the primary pieces of advice that you will see when researching any sort of financing or credit building is to check your credit score and reports. At Teen Finance Tips, we highly recommend this as well. But it’s important to go about it the right way, so you don’t fall victim to any of those “FREE” (not really) credit report scams. You’re entitled by Federal Law to one free credit report every twelve months, from each of the three main credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Whether you are looking to apply for financing, starting down the road of credit repair or more likely establishing credit at a young age, or simply curious as to what your credit looks like, it’s important to know the right way to go about getting your credit report.
Get Your Free Credit Report Without a Credit Card
You do not need a credit card to view your credit report. If you are on a site that requires a credit card entry to get your credit reports (without any other paid benefits), don’t fall for it. You can go to annualcreditreport.com and request your credit reports from all three credit bureaus at once, and it does not require you to input your credit card or any banking information. Their website is secure and they are authorized by the Federal Government to provide this service, so you can feel comfortable submitting your information.
Other sites may promote free credit scores or display “free credit check”, but we recommend AnnualCreditReport as the tried and true, trusted resource for the best free credit report. CreditKarma is also a reliable source, however, they will give you credit scores, not so much what is on your report and they do not report your score from Experian – only TransUnion and Equifax. They have a very user friendly app that is nice to check in on and see your credit progress. Neither of these resources have hidden fees or scams, and they can serve as great tools for monitoring your credit. When it comes to reviewing your credit and disputing anything inaccurate or for credit repair, you’ll need the full report. But if you’re only looking for a general idea of where your credit stands and to see if you have a good credit score as a teen, your scores from TransUnion and Equifax will do just fine.
How Often Can You Get Your Free Credit Report?
As we stated earlier, you are entitled to your credit report from each bureau every twelve months. However, you can do this in a way to get updates much more often if you prefer. It’s up to you if you want to get them all at once or spread them out throughout the year. You just can’t get a report from the same credit bureau more than once in twelve months. If you are getting ready to apply for an auto loan or are going to be financing another big purchase, you may want them all at the same time. This will allow you to review them thoroughly and dispute any inaccurate negative items. If you are simply checking in on your credit, you may want to consider spreading them out. Although credit scores and reports are calculated and created differently between the three bureaus, they contain much of the same information. If you want more frequent updates, we recommend only getting one at a time, about every four months.
How to Find Your FICO Score
Three credit bureaus and different scoring methods? This may leave you thinking “well what credit score does a lender use when reviewing a credit application?”. Lenders typically use FICO scores to determine loan approvals. You have a different FICO score for each of the three bureaus. The scores and reports you can get from the resources above are non-FICO credit scores. These are most likely very similar but do use a different formula, according to myfico.com. The good news is that most of the time it is not necessary to purchase your FICO credit scores from the credit bureaus.
It’s best practice to communicate with the lender you are considering financing with and ask them what scores they will utilize in determining your loan approval. You can then look specifically at these requested scores to get a better idea of what they will see. Even if you purchase your FICO scores, there is no guarantee that you will see exactly what a lender will see. An example of this would be an auto-enhanced FICO score, or sometimes referred to as just an auto credit score, when applying for a car loan. This credit score is weighted in favor of automotive financing history. If a lender uses this, it could be slightly different from any score that you request.