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How Often Should You Check Your Credit Report?

Joey Ocampo, Senior Commercial Loan Specialist, First Republic Bank
July 27, 2022

  • You should check your credit report at least once a year, but also may want to consider checking one report from each major credit reporting bureau every four months.
  • You are entitled to one free credit report from the three major credit bureaus every 12 months.
  • Other consumer reporting agencies monitor your credit too, though some may charge fees.

No matter where you are in your financial journey, it’s critical to regularly check your credit reports with the major credit reporting agencies to get a sense of your credit score. 

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recommends checking your credit report at least once a year. However, you should consider checking your credit file more consistently to gain a clear image of your credit health throughout the year. You can expect your credit to change over time with actions like borrowing money from lenders and your overall payment history on debt.

Understanding how often you should check your credit report, and how to do so, is an important part of building and maintaining your overall financial health and can help set you up for future success. 

How often should you review your credit reports?

The CFPB recommends you review your credit reports at least once a year. 

However, reviewing your credit history and open credit accounts more frequently can give you a more accurate picture of your financial standing, so you may want to consider checking one of your free credit reports every four months. To do this without paying extra fees, you can alternate between the three free credit reports from the major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

In a few instances, you may want to check your credit report even more frequently, such as when preparing to apply for a mortgage, or if you have been the victim of fraud.

Importantly, checking your credit report doesn’t affect your credit, because it’s considered a soft inquiry (also called a soft credit check). The two types of credit inquiries are soft inquiries and hard inquiries. The former doesn't affect your score, whereas the latter will temporarily lower your score.

Should You Request All Three Credit Reports at Once?
The best practice is to stagger checking the reports from each of the three major credit bureaus to get a consistent idea of your credit health. However, in some situations (such as fraud or denied applications), checking all three credit reports at once can be helpful. Although you will only receive one free copy of your credit report each year per credit bureau, you can pay for additional reports from all three credit bureaus as needed.

Why should you check your credit report regularly?

You'll want to keep tabs on your credit report on a frequent basis for many reasons. 

Regularly monitoring your credit reports can help you spot credit report errors, catch fraud, ensure your information is accurate and evaluate your current credit situation. This can help guide financial decisions, since it can give you a sense of how creditors view your creditworthiness and whether you’ll be able to be approved to borrow large sums of money or open new credit accounts.

Additionally, if you are a victim of identity theft, or suspect you are, it’s important to look at your credit reports, so you can identify fraudulent activity with the aim of disputing fraudulent transactions and restoring your credit score. You can also get a sense of whether you need to freeze your credit, especially if you suspect identity theft.

Do Credit Reports Show Your Credit Score?
Credit reports don’t include credit scores by default. However, some credit monitoring services that allow you to view abridged credit reports may include access to credit scores, too. Keep in mind that there are several credit scoring formulas, so scores may vary just as the contents of your credit reports do.

How can you check your free credit report?

The main destination to check your credit report is annualcreditreport.com, an official website sponsored by the three major credit bureaus to give you access to credit reports from each of these three credit bureaus.

You'll need to take a few steps to receive your credit report online, in the mail or over the phone; you can visit annualcreditreport.com to learn more. If you choose to receive your credit report online, you can generally view it instantly. If you’d like to request it by mail or phone, you will generally receive your credit report in 15 days.

In terms of credit inquiries, requests for free credit reports are not considered hard inquiries, so your credit score will not be affected.

Other Credit Monitoring Services
While Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion are the three major credit bureaus, several third-party credit report monitoring services allow you to view abridged credit reports anytime. Some may be free, whereas others charge a fee.

Other consumer reports

Along with the credit reports from the three major bureaus, other consumer reports help lenders make informed choices about potential borrowers. As such, it’s important to be aware of these, especially if you’re trying to get the full picture of your financial standing and creditworthiness.

The CFPB has a list of all the consumer reports you can access. Additionally, under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), all of these consumer reporting companies are required to provide you with a copy of the information in your report on your request, and most do so for free. Similar to checking your free credit reports, these inquiries do not affect your credit score.

Final thoughts

A major step toward feeling empowered financially is knowing where you stand in the eyes of lenders and creditors. You should take advantage of your right to free credit reports as often as you can to get an accurate, up-to-date picture of your finances. Knowing how often you can get a free credit report means you can use the information to make informed decisions and ultimately grow your wealth.

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