There are three little numbers (your credit score) which could wind up saving you hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars.  Lenders use credit scores to help them determine the “credit worthiness” of consumers applying for credit cards, lines of credit, or loans. The applicant’s credit score will probably be used for figuring out whether he or she qualifies for credit, and if so, what terms and interest rates he or she will receive.

Credit scores are calculated based on data in your credit reports and, as fluid numbers, change over time, sometimes even daily.  That’s why it is very important to stay current with your credit reports for changes that could affect your credit scores. Other than pulling your credit report on a daily basis, credit monitoring is the best way to know what’s happening in your credit report.

Keep in mind: The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, if you request it, once every 12 months. The FCRA promotes the accuracy and privacy of information in the files of the nation’s consumer reporting companies. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, enforces the FCRA with respect to consumer reporting companies.  The credit report will give you your free credit score.

A credit report includes information about where you live, how you pay your bills, and whether you’ve been sued or arrested, or have filed for bankruptcy. Nationwide consumer reporting companies sell the information in your report to creditors, insurers, employers, and other businesses that use it to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, or renting a home.

Here are the details about your rights under the FCRA and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (FACT) Act, which established the free annual credit report program.

The three nationwide consumer reporting companies have set up a central website, a toll-free telephone number, and a mailing address through which you can order your free annual report.

You may order your reports from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies at the same time, or you can order your report from each of the companies one at a time. The law allows you to order one free copy of your report from each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies every 12 months.