Check your credit: Program helps Kansans stay on top of their credit reports

We know that it’s a good idea to check what credit reporting bureaus have on file about us to make sure it’s accurate, but it’s easy to forget.

To help Kansans stay on top of what credit reporting agencies have on file, a new program launched by Kansas State University Research and Extension will send email reminders about every four months, remind participants to check their credit report with one of the credit reporting bureaus. Sign up any time for this ongoing extension program. Sign up is free, ongoing and can be done at any time.

With the exception of Equifax, credit reporting bureaus are only obligated to provide us one free credit report a year. And in all cases, we have to ask for them.

Rather than request them all at once from each of the three major bureaus, TransUnion, Equifax and Experian, another way to handle that is to request a report from one agency now, from another in a few months and the third a few months after that. The process repeats every year so that you have an annual view across all three agencies of what others see about you. And others do see it.

Unlike Experian and TransUnion, U.S. consumers may request up to six free copies of their Equifax credit report during any 12-month period, as a result of a 2019 settlement.

Credit is the ability to borrow money and repay it later. When people talk about having “good” or “bad” credit they’re usually talking about their credit history or scores. Knowing how credit histories, reports, scores work can help you take steps to build a positive record. That positive record can help you reach your goals by potentially lowering costs for borrowing money and paying deposits on utilities and cell phones. It can also reduce barriers to housing and employment.

Your credit report is a record of some of your bill-paying history, public record information, and inquiries by lenders into your credit history. The report does not tell your credit score.

Requesting your free credit report each year will not cause your credit score to drop. Staggering your requests for them can help you see if anything is changing throughout the year or if any fraud has occurred.

There’s a lot at stake. Credit reports are often used by credit card and other credit providers, banks, insurance companies, and landlords to assess someone’s creditworthiness. That means if you apply for a loan or to rent an apartment and there’s an unfavorable error on your credit report, it can result in higher interest rates on loans or the denial of credit altogether.

One in five people has an error on at least one of their credit reports according to a study conducted by the Federal Trade Commission. Companies that look at credit reports believe that how you’ve handled credit in the past is a good predictor of how you’ll handle it in the future. That’s why it’s important to check your report for errors. If you find errors, get them corrected. It may take some time to get the problems solved or require some outside help. When is the last time you checked your free credit report?

Credit reports affect many aspects of your life. Sign up today for K-State Research and Extensions’ “Check Your Credit” email program. It’s easy and it’s free. You will not have to share any information with anyone and your email will be kept secure.

We’ll remind you to check your credit report three times a year on Feb. 2, June 6 and Oct. 10. Use this link to sign up We will send you periodic emails with information about how to understand your credit report, correct errors, and use your credit report to your advantage.

Empower yourself to make better financial decisions by signing up for this “Check Your Credit” program.