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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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