Your credit score and your financial identity affect everything in your life, and you should protect them both. Here’s why and how.Your credit score affects loan rates, including for your vehicle and mortgage, credit or debit cards, even the college loan for your son or daughter. Something as minor as a single late payment can stay on your credit history for three years and affect your credit rating. Federal law requires the three top credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – to provide one free credit report a year. Apply only at AnnualCreditReport.com. Beware of similar sounding website names where you will be charged a fee, or worse, become a victim of identity fraud. For the full story on this topic, visit our sister site, Living on the Cheap.