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COLUMN: Make a habit of checking your credit score

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By Theresa Howard

 As a result of changes in the US economic situation over the last few years, getting approved for a loan has become more difficult. Two of the most common measures used by financial institutions in making a loan decision are credit history and credit score.

Your credit history or credit report is compiled by a credit reporting agency. Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax are the three major credit reporting agencies. Your credit report contains information about your payment history to creditors and the amount of credit you currently have available. Furthermore, public record information such as bankruptcies, foreclosures, tax liens, and court ordered child support may also appear on your credit report. Lenders review this information to determine if and how you have repaid other loans in the past.

Most information will remain on your credit report for seven years; therefore, it is very important that you check your credit report regularly to be certain there are not any errors. You are entitled to one free credit report per year from each of the three main credit reporting agencies. Instead of requesting a report for each agency at the same time, order one at time, spread out of the course of 12 months. If you time it right, you could request a free credit report every four months.

There are several ways to obtain a free credit report. Be careful about responding to ads on television or on the Internet. You can receive a free copy of your credit report online at www.annualcreditreport.com or by phone at 1-877-322-8228.

You may also request a copy by mail by printing a request form online and mailing it to Annual Credit Report Request Service. You do not need to request your credit score to ensure the accuracy of your credit report.

A good New Year’s resolution would be to make a habit of checking your credit report throughout each year.