If you've been turned down by a lender, ask them for a copy of your report. They are technically not supposed to share your own report with you, they can advise you of your credit score and the reasons for you were declined but they are not supposed to give you a complete copy of the report. That said, it doesn't hurt to ask and you will usually get a copy from the lender - they want you to improve the score so you'll do business with them in the future.
The only truly free way to obtain your credit report online is through the website:
www.annualcreditreport.com. You can get one free copy per year. The report is available online so this is a good place to start.
A site we really like for online credit reports is www.smartcredit.com. It has a free 5 day trial and after that you'll pay $29 for online access to your score and for credit monitoring. The coolest part about using this service is that you can dispute negative credit issues right online. With most other credit reports, online or offline, once you find a mistake on your report you'll have to make a written request to have it removed from your creditor. This can take weeks and has a good chance of geting lost in the shuffle. You can also make offers to pay down your balance on credit cards or request a lower interest rate, all online with the click of a mouse.
Most lenders base their lending decisions on Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union bureaus' reports and FICO scores. FICO scores are the primary measure most frequently used to determine creditworthiness. The formula for the information that is used to generate the FICO score was created by Fair Issac Corporation in the 1960s and has been in wide use for decades. The FICO scale runs from 300 points to 850 points; the higher the score, the better your credit standing.
According to scoring expert John Ulzheimer, a short sale or foreclosure can turn a FICO 790 into a FICO 590 overnight. Pay multiple bills late and you can expect to lose anywhere from 80 to 150 points from your FICO score.