The government website, AnnualCreditReport.com, is the official website you should go to receive a copy of your free credit report.
Several years ago, it was common for companies to advertise “free credit reports” on TV and radio spots. Most of the offers were a bait and switch. Sign up, get a free credit report and score, then see your credit card charged $10-$20 every month after that if you didn’t cancel on time. Thankfully, the Credit Card Act of 2009 changed the way companies are allowed to advertise free credit reports. The Federal Trade Commission now requires credit bureaus and credit monitoring services to market credit reports differently than previously.
Consumers who visit these free credit report sites will now be greeted with a large notice at the top of the page informing them they can receive a free credit report from annualcreditreport.com. The link is required to be clickable, so that customers can easily visit the site without having to type anything into their web browser. The notice should read as follows, or similar:
“THIS NOTICE IS REQUIRED BY LAW. Read more at FTC.GOV. You have the right to a free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com or 877-322-8228, the ONLY authorized source under federal law.”
Your Credit Report is Very Important – And You Should Check it Frequently
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.
How to Get a Free Credit Report from AnnualCreditReport.com
The 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 with no credit card needed 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.
You can also get a copy of your credit score from many banks, and even some credit card issuers.
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).
- MyFico. Owned by Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO), creators of the FICO score.
- Equifax Credit Watch Gold with 3-in-1 Monitoring. Owned by Equifax, one of the major 3 credit bureaus.
- TrueCredit. Owned by TransUnion, one of the major 3 credit bureaus.
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.