Looking at your credit report may be something you'd rather not do, especially if you've recently experienced a financial rough patch. However, knowing what's in it is important, especially if you're planning on a major purchase or applying for a new job. Everyone is entitled to one free copy of their credit report each year, which you can get at annualcreditreport.com.

What you might not know is this: If your credit history is rocky, you don't have to let the report alone tell your story. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, all three credit-reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) in the United States are required to allow consumers to attach a 100-word statement to their reports.

There is no numerical value associated with such a statement, so it won't affect your actual credit score. If you've had a long history of credit problems or lapses, the statement probably can't do much to help you either.

However, if you have had a specific problem or issue with your credit, a statement can help reassure a lender or creditor who is reading your report. Also, if there is an inaccuracy which is taking a long time to clear up, you might benefit from clarifying a specific situation.

"An automated credit report review will not take your statement into account at all," says Virginia Sullivan, the director of education for Bills.com. "But in the event of a manual review or a follow-up request, it makes sense to at least outline your case using this tool in case it finds a receptive audience."

A statement will stay on your credit reports for as long as you leave it there. If you want it to be attached to all your credit reports, you'll need to send it separately to all three credit-reporting companies.

"The statement can be a useful tool, if only to make the consumer feel as though he or she has done all they can to rectify a bad situation," says Gail Cunningham, a spokesperson for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. "The statement needs to be succinct and to the point with no editorializing."

Keep in mind that 100-words boils down to three or four sentences. Sample letters on CreditCards.com show how to write a letter that addresses identity theft, a medical emergency, or an error or dispute with a business.

Tips for Writing Your Statement

Be specific. Use dates, names, and other supporting evidence to explain clearly what happened and why it led to your credit being dinged. Sullivan gives this an example statement: "Company X claims they never received payment. I mailed the check on X date and have a copy of the canceled check from my bank. My 3 calls between X date and X date to service representative X have gone unreturned."

Avoid emotion. If a tragedy in your life has led to missed payments for bills, explain simply the nature of the event with the facts and circumstances. You may not want to give potential future landlords a sob story that could negatively influence their decision.

Don't make excuses. No need to get into a long-winded explanation about how your ex-boss was a jerk and that's why you lost your job, or that your brother-in-law never paid you back the money he owed you.

Proofread carefully. Your 100-word explanation will stay on your credit report unless you ask for it to be removed. Everyone who accesses the report will be able to read it, including future employers. Poor spelling or bad grammar won't derail your credit, but it might not help your case either.

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Ken Coulter

What are the actual steps on how to do this ???????????????????????????

December 28 2013 at 9:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Cool Story!

January 27 2012 at 3:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Welcome Dungans

This article is CRAP. I did, in fact, go to this site, and attempted to get my free credit report. Of course, after I finished all the information asked for, I received a message...." We are unable to provide you with your credit report at this time. If you would still like to obtain a free credit report, you must download "this" form and mail it to.....etc, etc...and then with that provide the following "book" of documents (pay stubs, birth certificates, left nut, etc)".
What a bunch of crooked, SH...As...es !!

June 09 2011 at 12:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This is crap. These scondrels have dumb americans thinking they can not live without credit in order to keep them paying fees and interest for life. Just look at how your grandparents lived and lean from them and tell these scondrels and their credit reports to go to hell and live by paying cash only and if you don't have the money live without it and you would not be raking up all these debts. The average middle class household in the USA has debts of $40,000.00 thanks to these criminals.

June 01 2011 at 10:29 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
David Clark

Obama will be re-elected and I have no comment on that.
However, I do hope in February of 2013, he takes a big smelly dump on the credit reporting,banking and brokerage industries.
Now who was it that created the situation which created the biggest economic stumble since the Great Depression? Realtors,Bankers and Brokers. Sure, I believe in making money but hell no the government can't make it a perfect world and yes, some consumers are just stupid.
Let's shake things up and straighten out the roadway a bit. Ok, a lot.
Put some people in jail and ruin them the way the past two years hurt us. No one working in a publicly traded company deserves a hundred thousand much less a million dollar bonus. If a company is make that kind of money it belongs to the shareholders. I don't care that you have an MBA and ride the train for three hours a day;you're not special.
Frankly I don't see any 'business' in making money from other peoples ignorance,misfortune,culpability,fraud or exploiting the markets the way some of these thugs did and continue to do. You're right - I don't understand business nor should I have to in order to remember the basic concepts of morality.

June 01 2011 at 6:23 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Lonnie Glessner

Please be aware that if you dispute any credit account on your credit report that it WILL CAUSE PROBLEMS when applying for a mortgage! Fannie and Freddie both require that the dispute be removed from your credit report. If not, then your loan has to be manually underwritten which could cause you to lose your loan approval. Second, your bank or lender may not allow their underwriters to manually underwrite your loan. Thus, your loan is DECLINED. FHA also implemented a similiar policy a month ago.

June 01 2011 at 12:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Know more tips to Change Your Credit History on http://fcispecialservicing.com/

June 01 2011 at 11:09 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

I review credit for a living and I have never seen how this helps anyone's credit scores. Consumer statements of any kind take you out of prime scoring and can hurt more than help. The best way to boost your score is to keep your credit card balances under 30% of the limit. As soon as you pay it down, call your lender and ask to have your limit raised (something they won't do if you have high balances), and keep your balances low. Opt for installment payments as opposed to revolving. Unfortunately I have a ton of debt myself but I know how to keep my score above 800 so I qualify for the lowest rates which helps me pay them down and eventually get out of this mess!

June 01 2011 at 2:12 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to triplelindee's comment

Triplelindee - the aritcle never said it would help scores. infact it CLEARLY states "There is no numerical value associated with such a statement, so it won't affect your actual credit score."

June 01 2011 at 11:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

How about putting this in your 100 words..........Thanks Citi Bank for forcing my interest rate from 10% to 28% and then refusing to lower it because payment was one day late, forcing me to file bankruptcy. Then you turn around and borrow billions of taxpayer dollars to prevent yourself from going bankrupt. What a F'ed up world we live in.

May 31 2011 at 11:40 PM Report abuse +9 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to davefromfwb1's comment

You agreed to those terms. Its not their faul, its yours for sending a late payment.

June 02 2011 at 1:48 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

That is one of the dumbest ideas I have ever heard.

May 31 2011 at 9:00 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply