How To Get Your Free Annual Credit Report
Published 10/19/07 (Modified 3/8/11)
I'm thinking of a number...between 450 and 850. Do you know what it is? It's my credit score, and it happens to be be 720.
Ok, my credit score is actually 750, but I'm sure you've heard that commercial before from freecreditreport.com. It's the one where the guy is sitting on a producer's chair talking about his credit score in front of a plasma tv. Well I'm here to warn you not to fall for their slick advertising. Their marketing technique is very clever but seemingly misleading. The free credit reports they offer are not truly free as most people would understand it. You have to enroll in their credit monitoring trial program to obtain your complimentary report. If you don't cancel within the trial period, you will be charged.
AnnualCreditReport.com is the Only Official Free Credit Report Site
There is only one truly free way to obtain your credit report, and that is through AnnualCreditReport. There are numerous sites out there that claim to offer "free credit reports", "free credit scores", or "free credit monitoring" but none of them are part of the legally mandated and official free annual credit report program. In most cases, the so-called credit report product comes with strings attached.
By law everyone is entitled to a free copy of their credit report from the three major credit agencies, Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian, upon request once every 12 months. These credit reports usually cost upwards of $10 each. It's a good idea to keep tabs on your credit report and credit score periodically for any fishy fraudulent activity. It's also a good idea to know where you stand in the eyes of lenders. Don't worry, requesting your own credit report is considered a soft credit check and won't have a negative effect on your credit score.
Your credit report will contain a snapshot of your entire payment history, accounts, balances, and payment history. Keep in mind that even though you are allowed by law to receive a free credit report every year, the free report does not come with a free FICO credit score, the three digit number that lenders use to gauge your credit worthiness. It's disappointing that the free credit report doesn't come with a credit score, which some consider just as if not more important than the actual report itself. Hopefully future government legislation will allow everyone to get their credit score as well. Currently, you will have to pay extra to get the score.
How To Request Your Free Report
To get your free credit report, simply visit their website at AnnualCreditReport.com or call (877) 322-8228. You will have to provide identification information such as your name, address, and social security number. The website is jointly operated by the 3 major U.S. credit reporting agencies and each has to provide you a free copy of your credit report. You have the option of requesting reports from all three credit agencies at the same time, or you can choose to stagger the three requests as some experts recommend to better monitor your credit throughout the year.
What If You Already Used Up Your One Free Annual Credit Report
If you have already requested your free annual credit report within the last 12 months, you will have to wait until the 12 month period is over before you can request again from AnnualCreditReport. If you've already used up your free official credit report for the year, your other choices include taking advantage of the 1 month credit score and credit report trial offers provided by sites such as MyFico or Equifax. They will provide you your complimentary credit report and score for enrolling in their credit monitoring program's trial period. Just remember to cancel the trial service if you don't plan on using it after the trial period. Some people do choose to keep the service as they find the monitoring service to be useful. If you want to take advantage of trial offers to get your complimentary credit report and score, my suggestion is to stick with the major companies. There are many shady sites out there looking to steal your confidential information, so please be careful.
Other Ways To Get A Free Credit Report
There are few remaining ways to get your free credit report if you've already tapped out the AnnualCreditReport.com option. By law you can get a free report if:
- You are unemployed and seeking employment in the next 60 days.
- You are receiving public welfare assistance.
- You believe there are inaccuracies in your report due to fraud or identity theft.
- Also, if you were denied credit based on information found on your credit report, you are entitled to a free copy of your report from the credit bureau that supplied the credit report. This entitlement would arise if you were denied insurance, rental housing, or employment due to issues found on your credit report.