How can I monitor my credit?
When you’re committed to building a healthy financial history for yourself, checking in regularly on your progress is a smart way to see the fruits of your efforts and identity factors that are slowing you down.
Start by reviewing your credit report. You’re legally entitled to receive a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus every year. Pull them all at once, or grab the three reports in stages over the course of the year.
When you receive your report, read it thoroughly. Confirm that all the information provided is correct and current. Is your address right? Is the data reported for each of your accounts accurate? Is there activity or an account that’s unfamiliar to you?
Your credit history is an invaluable tool in helping you catch small problems before they grow into bigger ones. For instance, you may find that a bill you thought you paid is listed as past due or that a loan for which you co-signed isn’t being paid off on schedule.
If you find incomplete or inaccurate information, contact the credit agency from which you received the report immediately. Faulty information may improperly blemish your financial history, lower your credit score, and prevent you from enjoying the benefits of the creditworthiness you’ve rightfully built.
At the same time, credit report errors may indicate identity theft — an increasingly common crime. If you suspect that you’re a victim, place a fraud alert on your credit report to prevent someone who’s not you from opening new lines of credit. If your credit card has been misused, contact your card issuer to cancel the card and initiate a dispute. Head down to your local precinct to file a police report and consider signing up for a credit monitoring service.
Remember that your credit history report does not include your numeric credit score. And, while many types of credit scores exist, all of them are computed from the information in your report. Want to see yours? You can order one or many scores online.
When you do order a credit score, you’ll of course want to review the score itself. But you should also examine the “risk factors” or “potentially negative items” that you’ll receive alongside your score.
These elements detail what’s keeping your score from being even higher. For instance, you may find notes that indicate you have high balances or frequent late payments. And that section of information may offer insight into how you can improve your score even further.