Why You Need All Three of Your Credit Reports Right Now

by Neal Frankle

Ryan has done an excellent job explaining why you need the highest credit score possible and how to make that happen. I completely agree with Ryan. One of the things that many people do in order to make sure their credit score is clean is to order their credit report. This is also a wise step. But where many people go wrong is they order only one credit report at a time rather than all three at once.

All Three Credit Scores

Why People Only Order One Credit Report

People do this in order to monitor their credit throughout the year. By law, the three large credit bureaus are required to provide you with a free credit report if you request they do so. When they send you the report you have a chance to dispute any errors so you won’t be penalized unjustly.

So what lots of people do is contact a separate bureau every four months figuring it will give them a fairly constant insight into what is happening with their credit. This way they cycle through all three credit bureaus in a year and they get to keep their finger on the pulse of what’s happening with their credit.

At first glance, there is a logic to this approach. That’s why so many credit score posts you read suggest you do this. But this method is fraught with problems.

What You Miss When You Order Only One Credit Report at a Time

I’ll answer this but first let me give you just a bit more background. I mentioned above that there are 3 major credit bureaus. The thing is, they don’t each have all the same information. Believe it or not, creditors get to decide who they want to report to, if they report at all.

What this means is that you could have a mistake reported on one credit report with one bureau that doesn’t show up on another. And if you don’t inspect all three reports at the same time, you may not know why your credit score is lower than it should be. And you won’t have the opportunity to raise your numbers because you don’t even know there is an error.

Let me give you an example.  Let’s say you opened up a student credit card back when you were in college.  You put $200 on the card then forgot about it, because college students do things like that.  A few years later you decide to cleanup the mess you made and pull one credit report.  The only problem is that student credit card only reports to Experian and you pulled your Equifax report.  If you pull one report every four months, it could be eight months before you figure out why your overall score was so low.  That’s eight months your score could have been improving.

You can see that by obtaining all three of your credit reports at the same time you can do a much better job of minimizing the chances of an error showing up.

What About Monitoring?

It’s true that if you go this way, you won’t be able to use the free reports that the credit bureaus provide in order to monitor your credit. So what? You can use free services like Credit Karma in order to monitor your credit every month and that won’t cost you a dime either.

Remember – credit monitoring is one thing. Cleaning up your credit history is something completely different. In order to do a thorough job scrubbing your credit history and making it as pristine as possible you need all the information and the best way to do that is to inspect all three credit reports at the same time.

Published or updated August 19, 2015.
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