New Rule Makes It Easier for Chicago Consumers to Get Free Credit Reports

Getting a free credit report is about to get a whole lot easier - and cheaper - for Chicago credit users.

Until last Friday, many companies heavily advertised credit report services - services that usually came at a price. The problem is that those same services are available for free at the government-sanctioned site And thanks to a new rule by the Federal Trade Commission, ads selling credit reports now have to point consumers to the free site as well.

Right off the bat, this could save you $15 a month - the amount a typical for-profit credit report service charges. But your future savings can be even greater. Just like getting a checkup at the doctor's office is a good indicator of your current health, checking your credit report will give you a view of your financial health - and how to make it even better.

Banks, debt collectors, and employers can all view your credit report. Wouldn't you like to see what they see?

Maybe you didn't realize that those late payments are adding up - checking your report might be just the wake-up call you need. Or maybe you know you've been paying the bills on time, but see you were mistakenly charged for a missed payment. Time to call up your credit card company. You might be able to fix an error and improve your credit in the process. Then there's the too-common problem of identity theft. Keeping your eye on your credit report can help you quickly spot any suspicious activity.

You can receive up to three free credit reports a year - that's one each from the three credit reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Not only that, but you're allowed additional free reports if you become a victim of identity theft or if you find errors on your credit report. Now, your credit score is another matter. Companies like FICO and VantagePoint calculate a score using the information on your credit report. They sell your score to credit bureaus, which in turn charge you for them. The good news? As long as the information on your credit report is accurate, you can figure out roughly what your credit score will be on your own. No matter what your score, you can probably improving it by paying your bills on time, keeping low balances in relation to your credit limit and, if possible, not opening too many new accounts.

So what if you can't afford to improve your credit? The fastest way to get back on track is to pay down debt. If you can't do it alone, find out how bankruptcy can help with a free one-on-one debt analysis courtesy of a Chicago bankruptcy attorney. Lower debt equals lower stress - and a higher credit score.

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