Consumer reporting agencies are getting more supervision, but individual consumers have the ultimate responsibility for monitoring their credit.
Your credit score impacts just about every major financial transaction you make — including obtaining a credit card, buying a car, and getting a mortgage. And increasingly, employers are using credit scores when making hiring decisions.
That gives a lot of power to the consumer reporting agencies Experian, Equifax, and Transunion, which gather information on credit history, evaluate credit worthiness, and calculate your credit scores.
Until recently, these agencies did not have federal supervision. That changed when the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced in 2012 that it would begin supervising consumer reporting agencies.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was created in 2010 to look out for consumers' best interests with mortgages, credit cards, and other financial products. Now the organization will apply the same type of oversight to consumer reporting agencies.
Check your report annually
While it's helpful for consumers to have this additional oversight, the most important monitoring of your credit report must still come from you.
Reviewing your own credit report can help you correct mistakes and detect any unauthorized activity. And it's an easy way to see where you stand in the eyes of lenders and potential employers.
You can get a free copy of your credit report each year at AnnualCreditReport.com. This centralized service was created in accordance with the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act. AnnualCreditReport.com is the only authorized source for the free annual credit report that's required by law.
3 things to know about the CARD Act
As consumers, many of us have love-hate relationships with our credit card companies. On one hand, credit cards offer convenient and secure ways to pay for anything, anywhere, any time. On the other hand, some credit cards charge high interest rates and late fees. Legislation enacted in 2009 aimed to resolve some of these issues. And it did for the most part.
According to the Federal Reserve, credit card companies have to evaluate individual income, instead of household, on applications. That has left many hard-working (but unpaid) stay-at-home parents on the wrong side of the legislation. Consumer advocacy groups are calling for this portion of the law to be changed.
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