Consumers worried about money during the pandemic now have an extra tool to stay on top of their financial futures.
The big three credit bureaus -- Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion -- are now offering free access to credit reports to everyone, up to one time per week, for the rest of the year. Previously, consumers could only get one free credit report per calendar year.
Missing a payment on your home, car, or credit card usually hurts your credit rating, with long-term consequences. But right now, if you set up an arrangement with your bank, it's required to tell credit bureaus you're "current" on your accounts. To verify that your bank followed through, you need to check your credit report.
It's pretty easy to spot issues. Credit reports plot out each account by month, and whether you're current. In the chart pictured below, green is good; yellow or red is not.
If you do see an error, you'll need to dispute it. That starts with calling the bank, credit card, or other lender reporting the account being off.
You can get all three credit agency reports at one website: AnnualCreditReport.com. That's the only place you should go. Beware of impostors with similar names; this is the only official and free site. Plan on at least 20 minutes to download and review everything.
One final note: you don't need your credit score. The credit bureaus may try to sell you access to your score. It's optional. As long as your credit history is accurate, your credit score won't bring any surprises.