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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): A Free Credit Check Four Times a Year

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A Free Credit Check Four Times a Year

You've heard it a million times...check your credit report. It seems that for every big purchase or major life change, our credit is getting checked before we even make our first move. If it comes back less than stellar, we literally end up paying for it..and many times directly through our noses. I'm sure you've heard by now, how you can check your credit for free online. By law, you are entitled to do this once a year. Here's how you can do it at no cost to you, four times a year and some of the other steps you should be taking in the process.

Visit Annual Credit Report. Yes, you are going to fill in personal information, including your social security number. Yes, it is okay, and this is a secure site. You may be asked some identifying information. Once all that is entered, you will be asked to go to one of the three credit bureau agency sites. Pick only one credit bureau. You will then be whisked away to their site and see your credit report, minus your actual credit score. You don't think the credit reporting agencies would just comply with this law without giving them their freebie, do you? Their catch, is them trying to get you to fork over $8 to get you to ask for your credit score. This credit score kind of sums up your entire credit report. This is the number lenders and everyone else uses to check your credit. Unless you are about to make a big purchase, such as a car or home or about to rent an apartment, you do not need this score. So go ahead and bypass that, and just check the block for your credit report.

Go ahead and print out your report. I know, it's many pages, but you are going to quietly go through each page and circle any abnormal entries or something you are not familiar with. If you have no clue how to interpret or even read your report, visit "How to Read and Understand your Credit Report". Again, it is not really necessary to get all three credit bureau reports, unless you are about to hand over some big money. I know this article says to do it anyway, but these days, the credit bureaus do a better job of sharing information, so if it's going to be on one report, chances are, it'll be on the others too.

Obviously, if you have any errors, you are going to go about correcting them. Clean up your credit report. This is the part no one likes to do, but even small corrections could help your score tremendously, and I am all for a higher score. You should be too. If you want to really get into the shenanigans of how the agencies figure out your credit score, read How Credit Scores Work and My FICO - What's in Your Score. You can then get a good idea of what can negatively impact your credit report and score and go about fixing that...or at least changing things to be in your favor.

In four months, you are going to go right back to Annual Credit Report, and request a report from the next agency on the list...and again in four months for the last one. Repeat again next year. Make sure you also do this for your husband. I've also heard to check your kid's records, because you know there are folks out there who like to steal their identities most of all...because not many will notice. Believe it or not, most times, it's a relative who steals a child's information and not a stranger. Anyway, the credit bureaus ask that you request a child's credit report by mail. I tried accessing one of my children's records online, and since it didn't come up, I figured (and I hope rightly so), that there was no record to be found. If you still feel you need to contact the bureaus, you can do so through their snail mail addresses. You will have to provide proof you are the parent, such as a birth certificate and identifying information for you, such as a driver's license. Contact each credit bureau separately for more information.

What stories can you share about requesting your credit report? Any tips you'd like to share in improving your score and credit record?

Added 5/8/2008:

If you are a Georgia resident, instead of the one free credit check a year, your state law allows you to have you can double the credit reports I mentioned above...if you like.

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