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How Often Should You Check Your Credit Report?

Sunday, September 26th

How Often Should You Check Your Credit Report?

As the old adage goes, "knowledge is power." For consumers, that knowledge should include a full understanding of their credit report, the score attached to it and how that information is used.

Consumers who know how their credit history affects their everyday living possess a valuable tool. The list of agencies that can use your credit report to determine if they wish to do business with you is endless: landlords, credit card companies, insurance providers, cell phone companies and utilities. Not paying bills on time - or at all - can have negative repercussions on your credit history, causing damage that is not easily undone.

From the very first bank account you've ever had, to all of the credit cards you hold, a person's credit history is a complete synopsis of how you have managed your finances over the course of your life. Whether the history is good or bad, it is prominently displayed within the pages of your financial documentation, otherwise known as your credit report. Financial brokers, credit card companies, financial institutions and even employers can use the information to their benefit and your detriment.

All credit reports contain a three-digit number called a credit score. It ranges from 300 to 850. The higher the number, the more financially secure the individual. Credit scores are generated through a mathematical algorithm that pulls data from a consumer's credit report and processes it into one handy rating.

So how often should you check your credit report? At a minimum, once annually is recommended, although 3 times or more is ideal.

Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, all consumers now are permitted to receive one free credit report yearly. There are three credit reporting agencies which track the financial histories of U.S. residents: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. While it is possible to order reports from all three agencies at once, some consumer experts recommended ordering one from each agency about four months apart. That way, consumers are able to view their report three times a year for free rather than just once.

Another opportune time to check your credit report is prior to any attempt to secure a loan for a large expense, such as a home or a vehicle. Knowing your current standing, and being able to find and correct any discrepancies in your report prior to applying, can help you to receive a more competitive interest rate. If a consumer discovers discrepancies in their credit report, they have the option of disputing them directly through the credit reporting bureau. Each credit reporting agency provides information on their respective websites on how to file a dispute.

If you've ever been denied credit - such as opening a new credit card account or taking out a loan - it is best to check your credit report. Inaccurate information may be contained within your credit report which is preventing you from getting credit.

The final and perhaps most important time to check your credit report is if you suspect you are the victim of identity theft. Your credit report will contain any fraudulent accounts opened using your personal information and may be a useful tool for law enforcement to track down the person who has committed the financial fraud. You also will need to be able to list all of the accounts which were not legitimately opened by you in order to have those accounts flagged and removed. If you find errors on your credit report, TopConsumerReviews.com has reviewed and ranked the best credit repair services available today.

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Canadian Credit Monitoring Company FAQ

Credit monitoring can mean two things: getting your credit score and report, or tracking inquiries made on your credit report with the intention of spotting fraud or identity theft. When you see services offering "credit monitoring" , most free platforms in Canada only offer you access to your credit score/report, while paid providers include tracking of your credit report and insurance against identity theft.
In Canada, there are two bureaus responsible for reporting consumer credit: Equifax and TransUnion. Each bureau uses different methods of calculating your credit score; some lenders and creditors prefer one over the other.
It might, depending on which service you select. Some free credit monitoring platforms in Canada give you access to your credit score and history, but you're responsible for looking for errors and fixing any problems you find. Paid services almost always monitor your account for any suspicious activity, help you freeze your accounts, and often include restoration specialists to guide you through the process of recovering your identity. You may even have identity theft insurance included in your paid package.
Some credit monitoring services in Canada are absolutely free. Most paid credit monitoring services cost between $11 and $30 per month, depending on the level of service you select and how many people you're covering (an individual vs. a couple or household).
Not necessarily. Your bank probably gives you access to your credit score when you sign into your account, but not a copy of your credit report. Plus, your bank doesn't have access to your credit cards, loans, or other creditors' information; they won't be able to spot fraudulent activity on any accounts outside of their institution.
If you use your monitoring service well, yes. Even with a no-fee credit monitoring platform, you can keep an eye on your credit score and act quickly if you notice anything out of the ordinary. Also, almost every credit monitoring service includes ample financial education, to help you understand money even better and to make good decisions for a healthy credit report.
Contact the company that is reporting the inaccurate information. It could be a simple administrative mistake. However, if you suspect that it's fraud, you should contact Equifax and TransUnion to inform them and ask that a fraud alert be placed on your credit reports. You should also report the fraud to the Canadian Anti-fraud Centre, and contact any lenders or other organizations that might be affected by the breach.
It's worth considering. Identity thieves often target children's information, because they can often use it for many years before being caught. Some credit monitoring programs in Canada offer discounted pricing for family plans.
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