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Denied Credit

When Can You Get a Free Credit Report?

Dear Experian,

If I was denied credit recently, am I able to get a free copy of my credit to see what's on it? I've already had my free credit report for this year.

- MJC

Dear MJC,

The free credit report you're entitled to once a year is separate from the free credit report you can get when your application has been declined. In fact, there are numerous ways to get a free copy of your credit report, even in the same year.

How Can I Order A Free Credit Report?

The Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act, an amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), allows you to get a free credit report from each of the national credit reporting companies once every 12 months through AnnualCreditReport.com.

The FCRA also allows you to get additional free credit reports from one or all of the national credit reporting companies for other reasons, including:

  • When your application is declined, you can get a free credit report from the credit reporting company that provided the report used by the lender as part of its decision.
  • If you are unemployed and seeking employment.
  • If you are receiving public welfare assistance.
  • If you have reason to believe you are a fraud victim.

Some states have laws that allow you to get one or more free reports beyond the free annual credit report and the reasons specified in the FCRA.

You can also get a free Experian credit report at any time on our website, or download the Experian app for easy access wherever you are.

What to Do if You Have Been Declined Credit

If a lender declines your request for credit, it's required to provide you with an "adverse action notice" that contains a list of reasons why you were denied. The lender also must provide the credit score it used in making the decision, an explanation of the score along with the risk factors that most affected it and instructions for requesting a free credit report.

If you haven't already done so, ordering a free credit score from Experian can also help you understand what is adversely affecting your credit and what changes you can make to improve your creditworthiness in the future.

When you receive your score, it will include a list of the risk factors currently impacting your credit score the most. Improving on those factors will help you improve your credit scores and your chances for credit approval going forward.

What Are the Most Important Score Factors?

The most important factor in your credit score is your payment history—that is, whether or not you've made all payments on time. Missing even one payment can hurt your scores, especially if the late payment was recent.

The second most important factor in your scores is your credit utilization ratio, which measures how much of your available credit you're using. To calculate it, take your total credit card balances and divide it by your credit card limits. A utilization ratio above 30% will start to do harm, but the lower, the better—ideally in the low single digits.

Improving Your Credit Scores

Everyone's credit history is unique, but here are some universal tips for anyone who wants to begin improving their credit scores:

  • Bring any past-due accounts current.
  • Pay down revolving account balances.
  • Add your positive utility and cellphone payments to your credit report with Experian Boost .

Thanks for asking.
Jennifer White, Consumer Education Specialist

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