You can get your annual credit report , free of charge, once a year. The three major credit bureaus are all on this page. The U.S. government required them to set it up when the law was passed allowing people to see their reports free . This is not one of those sites that says free credit report and isn't.
As you might expect, it is not really easy to navigate around. You will have to know a lot of things about your finances that you might not remember, before you can log on. Once you have answered all these arcane questions and are logged on, only Equifax gives you the chance to download the report as a pdf. The other two you have to know a little bit about files to save, but not much, since I was able to do it. I just saved the files as Microsoft Word files.
You won't be printing these unless you don't mind a massive expenditure of ink, because they are long and they are colorful. I just save them and read them on the computer.
There are two main reasons to check your credit report:
1. If somebody has signed up for some kind of credit in your name, you will see the credit information on something you know nothing about. For instance, some years ago a person bought a lot of furniture in Delaware and then skipped town. Unfortunately for me, they used my name and credit information to do it. Once you know that has happened, you can begin the long , involved, and frustrating procedure to get it fixed and off your record.
2. Mistakes. The credit agencies apparently do not hire the brightest lightbulbs in the pack, so they make mistakes. My daughter lost my credit card in a parking lot in Canada. I called, cancelled it, and they sent me a new one. Then the credit agency entered it as a $20,000 charge off. Losing a card and not paying a $20,000 limit card are two different things. Some clerk made a mistake, and I would never have known if I hadn't checked the report and seen that.
So it's worth the time and frustration it takes to get your reports once a year.