Checking your credit report on a periodic basis, at least annually, is a good way to catch any instances where you might be the target of identity theft – or the credit bureau has accidentally mixed up your history with someone of a similar (it happens more than you'd think). If you are concerned about others accessing your credit report without your permission, you can freeze it, which will limit who can access the information and under what circumstances. If you think you are a victim of identity theft, contact your local law enforcement authority immediately.
Become familiar with the information contained in each of your credit reports. They'll all look very similar, even if you've ordered them from different bureaus. Each credit report contains your personal identifying information, detailed history for each of your accounts, any items that have been listed in public record like a bankruptcy, and the inquiries that have been made to your credit report.
Paying your outstanding balance a few days after you receive your paycheck, rather than waiting until your due date, will help minimize the balance that’s reported to the credit bureaus and used to calculate your credit utilization. This can work both with multiple monthly payments or a carefully timed single payment. Automating withdrawals from a bank account is a great way to enforce the plan and eliminate forgetfulness.
Here’s some background to help demystify the process. Your credit score utilizes historical data from your credit report to predict your future risk of default. The information on your credit report is usually an accurate reflection of your financial life. And finally, your financial life is a subset of the rest of your life. So if you’re having hard times, more than likely it will show up in your financial life, credit report and then credit score.
Each time you apply for credit is listed on your credit report as a “hard inquiry” and if you have too many within two years, your credit score will suffer. In general, a consumer with good credit can apply for credit a few times each year before it begins to affect their credit score. If you’re already starting with below-average credit, however, these inquiries may have more of an impact on your score and delay your ultimate goal of watching your credit score climb.