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How to Get a Free Credit Report From AnnualCreditReport.com

by Ryan Guina

No doubt you have seen and heard hundreds of commercials about getting your free credit report – the television and radio are constantly bombarding you with the message that you need to know your credit history and score. And you know what? they’re right.

Your credit report and score play a big role in determining your ability to receive a loan, the interest rate you will pay, your ability to rent a house/apartment, buy a cellphone plan, and possibly even get a job or security clearance. The need is there, but what many of these companies don’t want you to know is that you can get a copy of your credit report for free through AnnualCreditReport.com.

Do you know the difference between your credit score and credit report? Your credit report is a history of your credit, while your credit score is derived from a weighted formula based upon your credit history.

Free Credit Report from AnnualCreditReport.com

Free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.comThe AnnualCreditReport.com website was set up to comply with the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT Act), legislation that requires the credit bureaus to provide consumers with a copy of their credit report once per year. It is the only official site to get a free copy of your credit report from the three major credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.

How to Get Your Free Credit Report

You can request your free credit report online, over the phone, or via the mail system. To get your free copy of a credit report online, head on over to https://www.annualcreditreport.com/. Then select your state from the drop down box, click “get report” and fill out your information. You will need your previous address if you have lived in your current residence for less than 2 years.

Select credit bureau(s). After completing your personal information you will be required to select which credit bureau you wish to receive your report from. You can select one or more credit bureaus. I chose the first option, TransUnion. At that point I was transferred to the TransUnion website.

Watch out for the upsell! The legislation only requires the credit bureaus to provide a free copy of your credit report, not a free copy of your credit score. The credit bureaus are more than happy to give you a copy of your credit score if you are willing to pay for it. TransUnion owns the company TrueCredit, and you have the option of purchasing your credit score for $5.95. I checked my score about a year ago, and haven’t had any major changes in credit, so I declined – I’m only interested in my credit report at this time.

Fill out your information. You will need to provide your personal information, including your name, DOB, SSN, address, etc. Once you enter your information you click return and your credit report will show up on the screen with the option to print. If you opt to print your credit report, be sure to select the option to only show the last four digits of your SSN when you are filling out your personal info – that way you aren’t leaving your full SSN on any paper that could be seen or stolen.

Get a free copy of your credit report every four months. You can receive a free copy of your credit report from each bureau every 12 months. Since there are three bureaus, you can stagger your requests to receive a report every four months so you have better access to recent information. It’s easy to keep track of which bureau you use and when you need to request another free report – just set up calendar reminders on Google Calendar, MS Outlook, or another calendar system.

What About a Free Copy of Your Credit Score?

Unfortunately, legislation does not cover a free copy of your credit score with your free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com. And your credit score is the number that is actually used by lenders to determine your loan eligibility and interest rates.

You can get a copy of your free credit score from some companies, but it may not be your FICO credit score, which is only provided by MyFICO. Here are some options:

Get a truly free credit score – no trials, no gimmicks.You can also get a free credit score from Credit Karma and Credit Sesame. Both of these companies offer truly free credit scores which are based on information from the major credit bureaus. They do not require you to provide a credit card number, and they never charge for their service.

The following companies my provide you with a free credit score if you sign up for a trial offer of their credit monitoring service (be sure to cancel if you do not wish to be charged).

You will note that all of these companies offer a free credit score and a copy of your credit report. However, receiving your credit score requires you to sign up for a free trial period for each respective company’s credit score monitoring service, generally ranging from $10-$15 per month. The free trial period ranges from 7 – 30 days, which is plenty of time to sign up for the service, get a free copy of your credit score, and cancel the service if you do not wish to continue monitoring your score.


Published or updated October 29, 2012.
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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kristen

A number of years ago, before I knew better, I got myself enrolled in a credit monitoring service to get my free credit report and score. I stayed enrolled for well over a year and received nothing for my monthly fee. No updated credit reports and no more scores. Cancelling was very difficult. I had to navitage a internet and phone maze to finally reach someone who would cancel my membership. In my personal opinion, it’s a lot less hassle to get your credit reports at Annual Credit Report and just pay for your score if you really need it.

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2 Ryan

Sorry to hear you had such a bad experience. From what I understand, several of those companies have been sued by consumer groups and/or the FTC has stepped in and they are now much easier to cancel

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3 Credit Card Outlaw

Good advice, I’m a fan of anyone who promotes Annual Credit Report. I wish more people knew about it.

There is almost no reason to sign up for any of the manipulative, expensive “credit monitoring” services when you can get your 3 free credit bureau reports once per year on that site.

That’s all you need. Those of you who check your credit report every two weeks: why? What is wrong with you?

If you’re that desperately reliant on credit for existence, you need to re-evaluate your financial situation.

Less focus on the credit score, and greater focus on building up the bank account. Ideally, you wouldn’t need credit at all to make purchases, and would only use it for HUGE purchases such as a home or apartment. Credit should be used for responsible leverage, not for everyday purchases. And it certainly shouldn’t become an obsession.

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4 fredct

“Good advice, I’m a fan of anyone who promotes Annual Credit Report. I wish more people knew about it. ”

Amen!

And Ryan, I’d love you to do a follow-up on ‘the 4th credit bureau’ (Innovis) and the, oh, probably dozen other consumer reporting agencies out there who you can also get free reports from.

“Those of you who check your credit report every two weeks: why? What is wrong with you?”

The only reason to do this is if you have an active concern about identify theft for some specific reason (your info was recently compromised, house broken into, wallet lost, etc). It *is* a good service to be available, but very few people should have any use for it.

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5 Ryan @ Planting Dollars

Thanks for the post, I was a bit ignorant on this topic as I didn’t know the difference between Report and Score before this. Hadn’t really needed to look it up in the past and had banker friends who would simply tell me my score if I wanted to know.

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6 Ryan

Your credit score and/or report are good to know – especially if you are making a major purchase in the near future or if you may have been exposed to identity theft.

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7 fredct

I have to wonder if your banker friend was able to mark your credit inquiries as ‘soft’ (informational, not seeking to extend you credit) or whether they came across as ‘hard’. If ‘hard’, every time he did it it actually temporarily dinged your credit a little.

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8 gina beringhaus

Hi Ryan,
For the past two years I’ve have been paying my credit cards on time and I’ve paying more than the minimun amount required. However, my credit score is still low -695. What else can I do to increase it? I would love to make it to the 800s because my credit was really bad years ago. I would appreciate your advise. Thank you. Gina

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9 Ryan

Gina, the most important thing you can do is pay your bills on time consistently – and even then, it takes time. Another important factor is your credit utilization, which is the amount of credit you are using compared to how much you have available. For example, using $10,000 of credit when you have $50,000 available is better than using $25,000 of credit when you have $50,000 available. Here are more tips: How to improve your credit score.

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10 fredct

Based on you saying ‘more than the minimum’, I get the distinct impression that you’re not paying them in full. If that’s true, then your credit utilization is probably your biggest hitter. As Ryan said, the more you carry, the bigger of a risk you are at having debt problems (and that hurts your score). Don’t just pay your bills, pay them off!

It’s the best thing you can do not just for your score, but for your finances… go ahead, and look at the money you’re paying ever month in interest, and imagine being able to put that away into savings or investments, or spending it on something other than interest.

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