Getting a free credit report from all three credit bureaus is easy, but you’ll need to pay if you want accurate credit scores from all of them. To get your free credit report, simply visit AnnualCreditReport.com. It’s the only website authorized by the U.S. government to distribute one free credit report per year to each citizen from all three credit reporting bureaus.
Checking a credit report is probably the most important thing anyone can do to take control of their credit health. In this article, we’ll show you how to get a free report and we’ll share some ideas for how to monitor a credit report for free all year. We’ll also show you what to look for once you have your free credit report in hand.
Credit Report vs Credit Score
A credit report is a consumer’s financial history. Lenders and creditors check credit reports to decide whether a consumer is responsible enough to pay back borrowed money. Someone with a good credit report will be offered the lowest interest rates on loans and credit cards, while people with bad credit reports will face high rates, if they’re able to borrow at all.
Credit reports are full of information from banks, credit card companies and other lenders. A black mark on a credit report can come from a collection agency, a missed payment on a credit card or a tax lien.
Credit reports are not the same as credit scores. A credit score is a three digit number made from information in a credit report. Financial institutions use credit scores to judge credit worthiness without having to read an entire credit report each time they investigate a new potential customer. When someone gets a free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com, their credit score is not included.
How to Check Your Credit Report for Free
The video below from AnnualCreditReport.com shows how to get a free credit report.
To get a free credit report, go to www.AnnualCreditReport.com. It’s the only website authorized by the U.S. government to distribute free credit reports from each of the three credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. It’s a great idea to look through these credit reports for errors or suspicious activity, like fraud or identity theft. One caveat: watch out for sites that claim to offer free credit reports but try to tack on fees or sell unnecessary goods and services.
Consumers can request their free credit report online, by phone, or through the mail.
- Online: AnnualCreditReport.com
- Phone: (877) 322-8228
- Fill out the Annual Credit Report Request Form http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/pdf-0093-annual-report-request-form.pdf
- Mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
An online request will return a credit report instantly, while queries made by phone or mail take roughly 15 days to complete.
Free Credit Report Any Time from Credit Karma
Credit Karma now offers free credit reports to their users. The popular site is well known for offering free credit scores. Consumers who want to use their free credit report service can visit their site and sign up for a free account. There’s no need to enter payment info or full social security numbers. The reports contain all the same information as the reports you could get free once per year from each credit reporting bureau, though it’s laid out a little differently. The bonus of checking free credit reports at Credit Karma is that users can check their reports as many times as they like, all year long, without any hassle.
Experian credit reports aren’t available through Credit Karma, but the free reports from TransUnion and Equifax should be enough to keep anyone informed. Those trying to clean up their credit scores or recovering from identity theft should find a way to keep an eye on all three credit bureau’s reports and scores.
Free Credit Report Once Every Four Months
Since one free credit report is available from each credit bureau every year, it’s possible to spread them out. Ordering one free report in January from Equifax, for example, then one in May from Experian, then another in September from TransUnion will keep a consumer informed all year, free of charge. This way, the consumer is never more than four months away from a fresh credit report.
More Than One Free Credit Report per Year
According to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB), anyone who applies for a credit account and gets rejected is entitled to an additional free credit report in the next 60 days. Likewise, someone denied insurance or employment can get an extra free credit report. Others entitled to additional free credit reports are people looking for jobs, welfare recipients, fraud victims and identity theft victims.
Watch for Scams
The CFPB warns that the internet is full of scam artists and sales websites that claim to offer free credit reports. These sites often tack on hidden fees or try to sell unneeded products to consumers. People looking for a free credit report can avoid the scams by looking only at AnnualCreditReport.com.
What to Look for in a Credit Report
Once your free credit report is in hand, look through it for errors and evidence of fraud. This could be anything from a note about late payments that you’re sure you made on time to information on credit accounts you didn’t open.
A consumer who suspects fraud should consider putting a fraud alert on their credit report. A fraud alert makes it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in someone else’s name. A fraud alert requires most financial institutions to verify a borrower’s identity before opening new lines of credit. Verification usually takes the form of a phone call to a number listed in the alert. Each of the three credit reporting bureaus has a fraud alert creation page. Creating an alert at just one of the bureaus will spread the alert to all three.
When errors are found on credit reports, consumers can log complaints with the CFPB’s online credit report complaint assistant. They can also fill out the online credit report dispute forms at Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.
How to Check a Credit Score for Free
Beyond the free credit report, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the credit score. Free credit scores are available through many banks. People can also get free credit scores by signing up for an account at CreditKarma.com.
- Credit Bureaus and Credit Scoring – USA.gov
- Free Credit Reports – Federal Trade Commission
- Place a Fraud Alert – Federal Trade Commission