Your credit report contains a great deal of information about your financial situation. And, while you might think that the information is restricted to your credit information, credit bureaus have quite a bit of other information on you as well, including your address, and sometimes a portion of your work history. On top of that, some of the information listed on your credit report might be wrong. Errors on your credit report can cost you in terms of lower interest charges, as well as — if the mistake is big enough — result in credit denial.

failed report card

But how do you know what’s in your credit report? If you go directly to the site of a major credit bureau, you might be discouraged by the fact that you have to pay for your credit report, unless you are willing to sign up for a credit monitoring service that comes with a monthly fee.

The good news is that you do have other options. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) provides you with a number of rights related to the information in your credit report.

Access to Your Credit Report

First of all, you are entitled to access to your credit report. You are entitled to one free credit report from each of the consumer bureaus every year. You can access your free report by going to

Other Consumer Reports

It’s also worth noting that you are entitled to other consumer reports that collect information about you. CoreLogic has to provide you with an annual report, and you can get a free report from ChexSystems each year as well. There are other consumer profiles that you can see once a year for free.

If you want to see your credit report beyond the free profile from each bureau once a year, you are entitled to access to the purchase of your credit report for a “reasonable” fee from the consumer reporting agency.

Negative Decisions

You can also see your consumer report for free if the information in the report has led to a negative action. So, if an employer decides not to hire you, or if you don’t get the best interest rate on a loan, or if you end up paying higher insurance premium¬†because of information in your credit report, you can see a copy of the report in question.

Organizations are required to let you know why the negative decision was made, and tell you which consumer credit report was used in making the decision. You can then write to the reporting agency within 60 days and request a free copy of your report.

Who Can Look at Your Report?

It’s true that some financial services companies can look at your credit report when they are deciding what “prescreened” offers to send you. However, pulling your credit report for other purposes requires your permission. Before the cell phone provider can look at your credit, they have to ask you if it is ok.

Employers sometimes look at your credit history as part of a background check. You have to provide permission in writing for them to pull your credit report. Whether you are applying for a loan, or hoping to get cable TV, you have to be notified that your credit is being looked at, and you need to give your permission.

Fixing Errors on Your Credit Report

The FCRA sets forth the requirement that credit reporting agencies have to be as accurate as possible. This means you have the right to dispute inaccurate information, free of charge. If a mistake really has been made, the credit reporting agency is required to correct the problem within a “reasonable” amount of time. (Often, the amount of time is 30 to 60 days.)

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to get disputes resolved in some cases, and you might be surprised to see the inaccurate information pop up again a few years’ time.

Bottom Line

You have the right to look at your credit report, and dispute inaccurate information. You are entitled to know what is in your credit history. You can get that information from free sites like Credit Sesame, but you should aslo get an “official” report from each of the credit reporting bureaus at least once a year for free.

Photo by amboo.