Ask Money

Checking on credit reports

Chris Farrell Apr 8, 2011

Question: I have gotten in the habit of requesting my credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus through the website when I file my taxes each year. It’s an easy way to remember to do it: File the taxes, request the reports.

Because the website gives me the option of requesting all three or just specific reports, I’m starting to wonder — is it better to request all three at once as I have been doing, or should I be spreading them out over the course of the year? Does it matter? Thank you! Tara, Kearney, NE

Answer: I like your reminder technique: File taxes, request credit reports. A certified financial planner I knew had a variation on this approach: New Year’s Day football games, rebalance portfolio.

There’s nothing wrong with how you’re handling your credit reports right now. It’s smart to check on the reports.

An advantage of your approach is that you can easily compare the three reports to see how the information matches up.

However, I usually recommend setting it up so that you get one report from a different credit bureau every 4 months. This way you can monitor your credit throughout the year, tracking any changes or new information that might appear on it.

Of course, you’d have to come up with a new mnemonic. How about the major professional championship games, such as the World Series, Super Bowl, and NBA playoffs? Or when you get your quarterly retirement savings plan statements? Maybe it’s easier to put in a reminder in your online calendar–just not as much fun.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.