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A good credit score is critical to creating financial flexibility. The better your credit score is, the easier it is to get approved for loans and credit cards, the more you can borrow from lenders, and the better your loan terms can be. However, many people may not be aware of how they can monitor their credit, think that it’s expensive to get a credit report, or be under the false impression that actively monitoring their credit somehow harms their credit score. That is not the case. Not only is requesting a credit report an essential step in understanding your credit, but it’s free and easy.

The simplest and fastest way is to use the government-mandated website AnnualCreditReport.com. The site was created jointly by Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, the country’s three major credit reporting agencies. You will need to register on the site and provide basic information, such as your name, address, and social security number. Once verified, you can request a credit report from any of the three sites. You can also request one report from each agency only once per calendar year.

After receiving your credit report, it’s essential to review it for any errors or unusual activity, which can be signs of identity theft. Some common red flags include:

  • Incorrect spellings or data (such as an address that is not yours or the wrong social security number)
  • Accounts that you did not open
  • Negative information older than seven years (most negative information is excluded after that)
  • Credit inquiries that you did not authorize

It’s essential to monitor your credit regularly to understand your credit level. Since lenders may base their decisions on what is in your credit report, seeing what they see is instrumental in choosing suitable loans to apply for. Monitoring credit is also a good way to spot any inaccuracies that may hinder you when applying for a loan. The good news is that getting a credit report is as easy as going to a website, filling some information out, and hitting “submit.”

*DISCLAIMER: this educational article is for informational purposes only. It is highly recommended to consult your financial advisor for financial advice.

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