Truly Free Credit Reports and Gift Card Law Change

Free Credit Reports and Why You Should Do This (at least annually)

The only truly free website to obtain a free credit report is: http://www.annualcreditreport.com/. This site is governed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You may also call 877-322-8228.
Beginning April 1, 2010, other websites offering credit reports must clearly indicate in a box the above information. This site will provide you with a link to get your credit report and you will need to answer a number of personal questions, for identification purposes.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act guarantees consumers access to their credit report information from each of the three credit reporting companies, once per year, for free. The best and only way to ensure that you are getting this information for free is to use the above website, http://www.annualcreditreport.com/.

The 3 major credit reporting agencies are Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Using the above website, you are entitled to one report from each company every 12 months. You can obtain a free report from all three at one time, or order them one at a time, at various times during a 12 month period.

There are many companies that offer credit reporting services and most will charge various fees, along with the “free credit report.” You should be careful of such services. While they may provide you with valuable services, you should not have to pay for the above credit report. Note that this free credit report is not your “credit score,” which is the basis for most lending, such as mortgages and credit cards.

We recommend that you request your free credit report information from each of the 3 companies at different times during the year, not all 3 at once. This is recommended to monitor if the information maintained is accurate and to spot identify theft. You have the right to inform the agencies if you note any errors.

If you want to purchase an additional credit report, for up to $10.50, you can contact each agency as follows:
Equifax: equifax.com, 800-685-1111
Experian: experian.com, 888-397-3742
TransUnion: transunion.com, 800-916-8800

Source: Federal Trade Commission, www.ftc.gov/freereports

New Gift Card Rules: The purpose of the new rules is to prevent service fees on gift cards unless the consumer has not used the card (or gift certificate) for more than one year. The consumer cannot be charged with more than one fee per month and the fees must be clearly disclosed.The Federal Reserve released the rules on March 25, 2010, which go into effect on August 22, 2010.

Expiration dates for gift cards must be at least 5 years after issuance, or five years after funds were last loaded. These rules are for retail gift cards or network branded cards, like Visa gift cards.

The new federal laws will override any state laws that are not as beneficial to the consumer.

Source: Journal of Accountancy, March 25, 2010, “Fed Issues Final Rules on Gift Card Fees, Expiration Dates”

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