Part 2 of 3: Obtaining Your Credit Report/Score and Inquiries

How to get your Credit Report:

Obtaining your Credit Report- Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, amended a few years ago to beef up consumer privacy rules, you are legally entitled to obtain your credit report from a credit reporting agency. This includes receiving a list of everyone that has requested your report.

If you have not ordered any credit reports within the last 12 months, you will be able to get free copies from all three credit reporting agencies. Request your report from, by calling (877) 322-8228, or by completing the Annual Credit Report Request Form [PDF] and mailing it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. The free credit reports do not include credit scores, but you can purchase those for approximately $5 each when you request your free annual credit reports through the Web site or by contacting one of the nationwide credit reporting agencies:

Equifax (800) 685-1111
Experian (888) 397-3742
TransUnion (800) 888-4213

Keep in mind you also are entitled to receive a free copy of your credit report without a credit score if you were denied credit or employment based on the information in your credit within the past 60 days, if you are currently unemployed and seeking work within the next 60 days, if you receive public assistance, or if you are a victim of identity theft or credit fraud. If none of these circumstances apply to you, credit bureaus also offer a variety of bundled services related to your credit report. For example, all three credit bureaus presently offer a combination of your credit score and credit report for $14.95 – $15.50.

Credit Inquiries:

There are two types of credit inquiries that can be made to your credit report: hard inquiries and soft inquiries.
A hard inquiry occurs when you seek to obtain credit. This happens when you apply for a loan or credit card, for example. Each time you fill out a credit card application at a department store, the inquiry counts as a hard inquiry. Only you can authorize a creditor to perform a hard inquiry on your credit report.

A prospective lender or other creditor will likely be concerned with an applicant whose credit report shows a high volume of hard inquiries. That’s because it suggests a carefree attitude in applying for credit or an effort to borrow excessively.

Borrowing too much — a situation called over-leveraging — is a potential red flag for creditors. It signals you may face more difficulty in repaying your debts in cash-strapped times than a person who judiciously applies for credit.

A soft inquiry is one where the inquiry is not tallied on your credit report. A soft inquiry does not constitute a bona fide request for credit. For example, a soft inquiry occurs when you obtain a copy of your report. A soft inquiry also occurs when a company gathers potential marketing information about you based on your credit report. You can opt out of these kinds of inquiries. The Fair Credit Reporting Act entitles you to contact each or all of the major credit bureaus and request them to stop sending you card solicitations and related offers. For more information, call 888-5OPTOUT (567-8688).

If information in your credit report is accurate but negative, or you file a claim that cannot be substantiated, you will be at the mercy of the calendar. Under the law, credit information can remain on your credit report for seven years, and 10 years if you’ve filed for personal bankruptcy.

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