Once you've tallied up all of your debts, you might be a little bit in awe. If something doesn't seem right to you, compare what you have to your credit report. Your credit report is the Permanent Record you were always warned about. Never pay to view your report! You are legally guaranteed access to your reports by the federal government. There are three major reporting agencies and you may view one at a time or all three at a time -- so if you want, you can set yourself up to review one report every four months for the rest of your life. How exciting! The only site you can trust is www.annualcreditreport.com.
Accessing your credit score is also free and is most likely a perk offered by your credit card company. If your credit card's website doesn't offer you access to your score, then go for a reputable source like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame.
Keeping tabs on your credit report and score is important. If you ever intend on being On The Grid, you will need credit. Apartments, cars, some jobs, utilities, mortgages, credit cards (duh), some bank accounts, and renting cars all require credit. As of right now, a credit score and the associated government mandated monitoring are what lets lending institutions know you are legit. Do you need good credit? Someone somewhere will always give you money for a house or car. Good credit means you don't have to pay through the nose for it.
What if you see something you don't like on your report?
Each of the three credit reporting agencies has a link online via your personal report to dispute any items you do not agree with. Once the dispute is formally submitted, the company has 30 days to verify that the information is correct as listed. If they cannot do that then the item will be stricken from your record.
You may dispute items on your report are negative items older than seven years, inaccurate items, duplicate, or fraudulent items. Once the disputed items have been corrected you will receive a shiny new report and a much improved score.