Online credit reports and scores
Have you noticed all of the offers for obtaining your three-in-one credit bureau reports and your credit risk score? Yes, we now know that your credit scores are being used for much more than getting a home loan. Your score is considered when you buy a new car (like those 0% offers), and when you apply for automobile and home insurance. You won't necessarily be turned down for anything, but the best rates go to those with the best credit ratings.
Get your credit history and FICO score online
If you haven't checked your credit history lately, say in the last year, it is time that you got a copy of your credit report.
As of December 2004, the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) allows you to receive a FREE credit report from each of the three credit bureaus every year. Due to the anticipated demand for this benefit, it is being phased in during 2005. For more information on this program, to determine when you will be eligible to apply for your free reports, and to actually apply, visit annualcreditreport.com. If you wish, you may also telephone them toll-free at 1-877-322-8228.
When applying, you will select one of the credit bureaus and you will be redirected to that site (where you can also receive a FICO report for a nominal charge). If you wish to receive reports from the other bureaus, you will have to revisit the site. This will allow you to order all three reports on the same day, or you can elect to stagger them throughout the year, e.g. one every four months.
If you have already received your free annual report and you need an updated copy, you can get a three-in-one report from an online site, or you can order the individual reports from each of the three credit bureaus.
You might also consider ordering both the Equifax report and your FICO score for $12.95 from Equifax. You can also order a credit report and your FICO score from all of the credit bureaus from MyFICO for $47.85.
If you are planning on buying a home, you can get a rate predication that takes your debt-to-income ratio into account for $29.95. Also, if you are purchasing insurance, you can get your automobile and home-owners insurance risk scores for $12.95 each.
Improve your credit score
The best ways to improve your score won't cost you anything: pay your bills on time, pay down your debt, and keep all of your balances well below your credit limit. If you need more help, E-Loan has a Credit Score Monitoring Service for $29.95 per year that will monitor your credit score each month and suggest specific moves, such as which credit-card balance to pay down first to improve your score quickly.