Give yourself credit (reports)

Posted by on January 10, 2011 @ 8:39 am in Personal finance

This time of year we are flooded with reminders, checklists, and predictions. Many are useful, but some are merely entertaining.

While there are many items related to your financial health that deserve attention at the beginning of the year, this might be a good time to order your annual free credit report.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires the three credit reporting agencies to provide you a free report every 12 months at your request. You can order these reports directly from their sites (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion), or from

While these sites will provide you with your credit report (which is very useful for checking the accuracy of data in your file), there is a charge to view and print your actual credit score as computed by the credit reporting agencies.

Beware of other services—even those with catchy TV jingles—which can cost you much more for the same information and lock you in to ongoing monthly payments for services you didn’t plan on buying. Cancelling these services can be confusing and time-consuming, so resist clicking unless you believe you need the service.

Finally, don’t overlook the usefulness of a credit report as a financial coaching opportunity for young adults. If your kids are about to make the jump from renting an apartment to buying that first condo (or even if that’s still a few years away), take some time to familiarize them with their credit reports and explain how a good credit score can be essential to securing a mortgage, auto loan, and other financial arrangements.

Note: Links to the credit reporting agencies mentioned here will open new browser windows. Except where noted, Vanguard accepts no responsibility for content on third-party websites.

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