Kudos to my esteemed fellow editor Lisa Ocker for an important note in the Business 101 section of our May issue of SUCCESS, all about the pitfalls of obtaining a credit report online. (Read “Costly Consequences” on SUCCESS.com.)
But when I saw what she wrote, I had to ask Lisa, Where was this story last fall when I needed it!? For me, credit curiosity ended with an unexpected bill—a charge that would’ve become monthly had I not sniffed out the problem sooner.
In Lisa’s story, detailing the importance of checking our credit report for errors, which can be somewhat frequent according to a Federal Trade Commission study, she notes that consumers are entitled to one free credit report per year. If only I had known that I got a single yearly peek, I’d have $22 more to my name right now.
And $22 may not seem like much, but the prospect of $22 accruing monthly over the course of a year is certainly something I wanted to avoid. So, after one full month of membership at the supposedly “free” credit score site—you know the one that advertises itself with the singing guys in pirate hats—when I noticed the first charge, I was quick to call up and cancel my membership.
“May I ask what is the cause of your cancellation?” is a polite question I assume the customer service rep on the other side of the phone must have to ask everyone after a month or two. “Well,” I told her, “I thought free meant free, but it apparently doesn’t. I checked my credit report in December, it was good, then I wondered how much better it had gotten by February, so I checked again.”
For me, it wasn’t $22 worth of curiosity each month. Of course, I’m a long way from trying to finance a mortgage or take out a small-business loan or even buy a car. Now that I’ve learned the reality of online credit checks the hard way, I’ll stick to a site like AnnualCreditReport.com when the urge strikes me again.
The moral, I guess, is to always read the fine print. And if you don’t, make sure to check your bank statement.