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What is a credit report?
A credit report contains a detailed list of information regarding your credit activity and current credit situation based on your ability to pay loans, mortgages, status of accounts, etc.
When you make payments on your various types of loans and debt such as mortgages, auto loans, HELOC’s, credit card payments, it is all recorded by the businesses providing the loans. These businesses will report your payment habits, debts, loan, and credit history to 1 or more of the 3 main credit reporting agencies or bureaus.
The credit reporting companies combine and collate all your information regarding your credit and payment activities into a credit report. Since information is not received by all reporting agencies, credit reports can differ from one agency to another.
How to get a free credit report?
*Casaplorer does not provide credit reports, the link will take you to the official Annual Credit Report.com website
What information is provided in my free credit report?
- Personal Information - The list includes basic information required to ensure that the credit report is for you and the correct information.
- Credit Accounts – This is a major portion of the report, it will include all your credit accounts such as mortgages, personal loans, and revolving lines of credit, etc. Along with the accounts, it will also include the credit limit, balance, and the dates the accounts were opened and closed.
- Public Records – This section contains some of the negative information regarding your credit such as previous delinquencies, bankruptcies, and civil suits. Information regarding a lawsuit can stay on your report for 7 years or until the statute of limitations runs out. Bankruptcies can be kept for 10 years and unpaid taxes will stay for 15 years.
3 Main Credit Reporting Agencies
There are 3 main credit reporting agencies that are required by federal law to provide you your free annual credit report: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax.
Check your TransUnion Free Credit Report Here
Check your Experian Free Credit Report Here
Check your Equifax Free Credit Report Here
Although these are the 3 main ones, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a list of authorized credit reporting agencies.
What is a credit score?
A credit score is a numerical value associated with your creditworthiness or your ability to pay back debtors and lenders. It is calculated by a mathematical formula that uses the information provided in your credit report.
Credit scores are used by lenders to determine the likelihood of repayment. Individuals with higher credit scores are more likely to pay back, versus individuals with a lower credit score who are less likely to pay back their debts.
The above figure shows how credit scores are interpreted. An excellent credit score is above 760 where you can qualify for all financial products and will get the best rate. A credit score above 660 is a good score, and you will have access to most products. Credit scores below 660 have a lot of room for improvement, however, most conventional mortgage programs have a minimum credit score requirement of 620, therefore, you can still qualify.
If you have a low credit score that is at least 500, you should consider an FHA loan which is catered to individuals with a lower credit score. Other options include VA loans and USDA loans that do not have minimum credit score requirements.
Why does my credit score differ between agencies?
The 3 main credit reporting agencies determine your credit score, however, they can differ from each other because of several reasons:
- Altered Mathematical Formula: The formula that one agency used might differ significantly from what another agency uses. Therefore, it is completely okay if your credit score varies from agency to agency, as long as they are in the same ballpark or range you should be good.
- Varied Scales: Different agencies have different credit score scales. For example, TransUnion and Experian have a scale from 300 – 850, whereas, Equifax has a scale from 280 – 850.
- Limited Reporting: Not all lenders report to all 3 agencies, therefore, some of the credit payments might be missing from one of the agencies which can affect the entire report and credit score.
Why doesn’t my free credit report include my credit score?
It is important to understand that there is a difference between your credit report and your credit score. A credit report is a compilation of your credit information that the credit bureau receives, whereas, credit score is the value calculated based on a formula using the information from your credit report.
You can have multiple credit scores as a result of the manner in which credit scores are calculated. You can always analyze your free credit report as the law states that you can receive 1 free credit report from each of the 3 national agencies every year.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it important to check your credit report regularly?
Yes, credit score is a very important factor that is considered when lenders are analyzing your financial ability to repay debt. The credit report is used to calculate the credit score. A lot of financial products’ first requirement is a minimum credit score, for example, conventional mortgages require a minimum credit score of at least 620.
Next, your credit report includes all the positive and negative factors affecting your credit score. You should pay close attention to the negative factors, if it is a one-time detriment to your credit score, it is okay, however, if it is something that is constantly lowering your credit score, you should bring about a change. There are a lot of useful insights that you can use to improve your credit score.
Lastly, it is essential to check your report to ensure all the information being reported is accurate and up to date as it can be a huge hassle to change information on your report in the future. It is also a good habit to ensure no fraudulent activity is taking place using your name and financials.
How do I fix errors in my credit report?
If you are denied credit or certain financial products as a result of your credit report, you are allowed to request which agency provided your credit report. There are two major ways to fix inaccuracies on your credit report:
- Get in touch and contact the credit reporting bureau and the company that provided the wrong information such as banks or lenders
- Reach out to the credit reporting bureau and state what is wrong and why it is wrong. Keep a copy of all communication and exchanges that you make.
The credit reporting agency and lender are responsible for fixing the errors on your credit report. If your written dispute is met with negligence or inaction, you can reach out to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and file a complaint.
Can I get my free credit report annually?
Yes, you can get a free credit report annually from the 3 main agencies once a year.
Does checking your free credit report hurt your credit?
No, checking your credit report has no impact on your credit as it is considered a ‘soft’ inquiry. Whereas, mortgage lenders checking your full financial history and credit, which is considered a ‘hard’ inquiry can lower your credit for a short period of time. If several lenders check within a certain time, such as all within 60 days, then it only impacts your credit once.
How long does it take to get a free credit report?
If you use annualcreditreport.com which is the official legally mandated website, you can receive it immediately. If you order it by phone, it can take 15 days to reach your home.
Who can access my credit report?
The Federal Credit Reporting Act specifies who can access your credit reports such as creditors, lenders, insurers, employers, and businesses that require the credit information.
Can my employer access my credit report?
Yes, but only if you authorize access to the report. Reporting companies are not allowed to provide your credit report to employers or potential employers without your approval.