It should be easy to obtain your credit report, right? After all, it’s become fairly well-known that we should all review our credit reports, and there are more tools than ever to help us do so. But the question isn’t just how to obtain a credit report; it’s how to get your credit reports for free. Here’s everything you need to know about where to get your free credit reports.
The Place to Go to Get Your Credit Report for Free
There’s only one place you need to know of to get your free credit reports: AnnualCreditReport.com. This is a site that enables you to get your credit reports from the three major credit reporting agencies (CRAs) — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. It also enables you to do so once per year for free.
All you have to do when you go to the homepage of the site is click on the button on the bottom left-hand side of the page that says “Request your free credit reports.” Just follow the prompts from there, including a form you’ll need to fill out, and you’ll be directed to your reports. It’s that simple.
Besides making it easy to view your credit reports online and/or obtain free copies of them in the mail, AnnualCreditReport.com also details useful information on what to look for when reviewing your credit reports, protecting your identity, how to file a credit report dispute, and more.
An Important Note About Credit Reports and Credit Scores
Keep in mind there’s a difference between credit reports and credit scores. AnnualCreditReport.com provides people with free credit reports — but NOT free credit scores.
Although credit reports and credit scores sound similar, they are different products developed by different companies. And, even though you have a legal right to review your credit reports for free each year, no such right currently exists for your credit scores — though there are plenty of places you can get a free credit score.
All that said, your credit reports play a large role in your credit scores. That’s just another reason it’s so important to review your credit reports. If there are any mistakes on your credit reports, then your credit scores will needlessly suffer.
Here’s what you need to remember. When you obtain your credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com, those reports will not include your credit scores. But there are more places you can to go to view your credit reports. (Some might also show you your credit scores.)
Other Ways to Obtain Your Credit Reports
Even though AnnualCreditReport.com might be your first stop in obtaining your credit report for free, that’s not the only place available to find your credit reports. The key is, not all of the other options are free.
Here are a few additional places to go to obtain your credit reports.
The CRAs: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion
The CRAs are the arbiters of your credit reports. Each of the three credit reporting agencies provides consumers with access to one free credit report each year through AnnualCreditReport.com, and each CRA also offers a premium credit monitoring service direct to consumers through their respective sites for a monthly fee.
For example, you can pay a fee monthly or one time only (whichever you prefer) to Equifax to get your Equifax credit report and one of your credit scores, along with credit monitoring and identity theft protection.
Although you can lock your credit report and receive alerts on changes to it, TransUnion also charges to show you your credit report and a credit score. The difference is, TransUnion’s service automatically comes with credit monitoring and a monthly service fee.
Experian allows you to get your Experian credit report for free, but also offers a service that lets you view both your credit report and a credit score for a fee. The fee is a one-time cost. That said, if all you want to see is your Experian credit report, the CRA enables you to do so for free on their site and it refreshes your report for you every 30 days. The free service also includes credit monitoring and a dark web surveillance report.
Third-Party Tools That Help You Review Your Credit
There’s no shortage of third-party websites and tools that will give you access to one or more of your credit reports or one or more of your credit scores (some even offering both). As to whether or not they cost money, that will depend on the company offering the service and the tool they’re offering.
Credit Karma is one example third-party tool you can use. CreditKarma enables you to see your Equifax and TransUnion credit reports for free, as well as your credit scores from both. Other examples of third-party websites that will give you access to the information on one or more of your credit reports and/or credit scores include Bankrate, Credit.com, WalletHub, and more.
It’s important to note that different tools will operate differently, some showing you a full version of one of your credit reports and others showing you information taken from one of your credit reports.
FREE TOOL: Are mistakes on your credit report hurting your credit score? Find out here.
Your Bank or Credit Card Company
This one is about your credit scores, not your credit reports. A new trend that has come up over recent years has been for banks and credit card companies to offer their customers a chance to see one of their credit scores for free. (And it’s important to note that consumers have more than one credit score). Some even let you view updates to the scores on a regular basis.
In fact, some don’t even require you to have an account. For example, credit card company Discover offers a free FICO® score and accompanying scorecard for anyone here.
The idea of offering a scorecard is useful, as it utilizes information from your credit reports. That’s because the major factors that determine your credit scores come from information on your credit reports. If you see something amiss on your credit score scorecard, you can be sure it’s time to check your credit reports for errors.
Know Your Credit Reporting Rights
It might feel like a chore to read your credit report, but the truth is that it’s a right — and it’s one protected by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
The FCRA was written to protect consumers from inaccurate or unfair credit reporting. Here are a few consumer rights outlined by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC):
- You have a right to know which CRA’s credit report led to an “adverse action” against you. Examples of adverse actions include the denial of new credit, insurance, or employment.
- You have a right to review your credit reports for free once per year. You also have a right to review your credit reports for free if an adverse action was taken against you due to a credit report of yours, if you put a fraud alert on your credit reports due to identity theft, if you receive public assistance, if fraud has led to inaccuracies on your credit reports, or if you’re unemployed and planning on applying for work within the next two months.
- You have a right to dispute any information on your credit reports that is untrue or missing information. The CRA reporting that information must correct or remove this information.
These are only a few of the rights outlined by the FCRA, but all of the rights outlined are to promote “the accuracy, fairness, and privacy of information in the files of consumer reporting agencies,” according to the FTC. Every time you read your credit reports — and any time you dispute inaccurate information on one or more of your reports — you’re enforcing your own right to accurate credit reporting.
The result? Credit reports that are fair and accurate and credit scores that truly represent your financial behavior, leading to the best borrowing opportunities available to you.