Consumer Disclosures 101

Do you know the difference between a credit report and credit score that you pay for and the consumer credit disclosures the law entitles you to get for free? You may know that you’re supposed to get a free credit report once a year from each of the three national credit bureaus, but did you know that disclosure won’t come with your credit score?

The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires credit reporting agencies and others involved in the credit business to disclose certain credit information to consumers. For example, in addition to your annual free credit report, you’re also entitled to a copy of your credit report if a lender has denied you credit because of something contained in the report. You’re also allowed to get a free copy of your credit report if you’ve been the victim of identity theft.

Although these disclosures don’t generally include your credit score, you have the right to ask for your score at any time. The credit reporting company can charge you for the score. Generally, when you’re accessing your annual free credit report online, the national credit bureaus will offer you the opportunity to also purchase your credit score.

While you have the right to look at your credit information at any time, federal law is very specific about who can see your credit information. If you apply for credit – such as a mortgage – you’re giving the lender permission to review your credit report and score, which will show up as a “hard inquiry” on your credit report. Too many hard inquiries in a short amount of time can affect your credit score. “Soft inquiries,” such as those made by your credit card company or for a background check, will appear on your consumer credit disclosure without affecting your credit score.

When a lender reviews your credit, they receive a copy of your credit report – not your consumer disclosure.