Turning the calendar page to January (seriously does anyone even have a paper wall calendar anymore?) is the perfect time to think about getting your credit report. (Huh?) Because you are entitled to a free credit report once a year and why not use January 1 as your own annual reminder.
Thinking that you don’t really need to worry about your credit score until after you graduate? Think again… that federal Grad Plus loan that you may have opted to borrow is reviewed for credit eligibility each year. So that means that a small credit slip (late bill etc. ) in your 1L year could make you ineligible for the Grad Plus for your 2L year. Are you considering taking out a Bar Loan to help support your living expenses while studying for the bar? Bar loans are only offered by private lenders and all are credit based -not just for their overall approval but also in determining what your interest rate will actually be. (i.e. good credit = low interest rate and bad credit = high rate). Want to take advantage of the new refinancing options on your student loans that so many lenders are new offering- those interest rates are credit based as well. Even potential employers will review and factor your credit into the hiring decision.
Here is how this works… there are three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You can get a free annual report from each one of the credit reporting companies once every 12 months. So there are two possible strategies…
- Order the report from all three companies at the same time so that you can determine whether any of our files have errors across all three agencies.
- Request the reports separately for each credit reporting agency at various intervals so that you can monitor your credit files more often throughout the year.
No matter if you want the report from Equifax or TransUnion or Experion- you order it from one place- www.annualcreditreport.com. That URL is the only one that will provide the report for free. (You may have seen ads for other sites with names that make you think the credit report is free but it is not).
What will your find on the credit report? Basically the report contains information about your credit accounts including how much credit you have vs. how much credit is available to you vs. how much credit you are actually using. There will also be information on your bill repayment history and whether a debt or bill collection is in place against you.
What won’t you find on the report? Well surprisingly you won’t find an actual “credit score” You will need to purchase a credit score directly from the credit reporting companies. But since that score is based on all the information from the credit report it is still incredibly valuable to review the report and make sure there are no inaccuracies or errors which can hurt the calculation of the credit score.
What do you do if you find something wrong on the report? Fix it asap so that it doesn’t harm your credit in the long term. To correct an error reach out directly to the credit reporting company and fill out one of their dispute forms. Know that the agency must investigate and respond to you within 30 days.
Does asking for the report itself “ding” your credit? No, self-inquiries do not affect your score, as long as you order your credit report directly from the credit reporting agencies, or through an organization authorized to provide credit reports to consumers (like annualcreditreport.com)!
So start the New Year right – begin by getting a copy of your credit report atwww.annualcreditreport.com. You may need that good credit in the not so distant future!
Contact Info for the consumer credit reporting companies:
- Equifax: 1-800-685-1111 or www.equifax.com
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742 or www.experian.com
- TransUnion: 1-800-916-8800 or www.transunion.com