How to get your first credit report

By Marcy Robles Lifestyle and Budget Consumer Reports

Students: Are you worried about your credit history? Wishing to stay up to date on your credit profile? Wondering what your credit report reflects?

Continue Reading Below

Your answer should be "yes." Credit reports play an essential role when making purchases that involve a loan or even when applying for a job. Many companies look at your credit reports to check up on your credit history. If you are not making bill payments, your account is subject to being reported as a delinquent account—that is, an account past due. This damages your likelihood of being approved for a loan, or of getting a loan at a decent interest rate.
You don't want to find yourself in this predicament, which is why it is important to expand your financial capabilities now. This is why I—a college student and novice at handling my own finances and loans—decided to view my credit report online at Consumer Reports recommends using this site because it's truly free and run by the three credit-reporting bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.

Continue Reading Below

This authorized website offers credit reports at the click of a button. All you have to do is type in your personal information, answer a few questions to verify your identity, and select which credit bureau you wish to use. You're entitled to a free report from each credit bureau, once a year.

Want more information on banking and credit? Read our guide for advice and tips.

Start off by selecting “request your free credit reports” and enter in your personal information. This includes your address, Social Security number, and birthday. Be prepared to answer questions about yourself and your credit history. Some questions may ask about monthly loan payments or the name of the credit provider for your loan, if any. Other questions may ask about your hometown, county, or phone number.

If any of those questions are answered incorrectly, you will be unable to access your credit report. I had to refer to my past loan statements to make sure I was answering these questions correctly, so it may be helpful if you have these documents in hand. Once you verify your identity, you will have access to view your credit report.

If you see any inaccuracies or information that needs updating, make sure to report it, as any incorrect information can cause damage to your credit history. Keeping up to date with such information also helps prevent identity theft.

What I found is that once you receive your credit report from one of these companies, you cannot request to view it again for free until the next year. A suggestion would be to save the file and print it. Keep the report in your records. That way you can refer back to it at any time. 

If you want to monitor your credit report more often, you can do so by requesting a new credit report from one of the three national credit-reporting companies every four months. This will provide a layer of protection to your credit profile. It's never too early or too late to start keeping track of your credit history.

— Marcy Robles

Copyright © 2005-2014 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission. Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this site.