Your annual credit report has records of every credit account, address, and payment towards debt you’ve ever made — and getting a copy is completely free. A free credit report has much more information than your credit score allowing you to see how the length of your accounts, payment history, and credit utilization impact your credit score. Checking your credit report annually is one of the best ways to monitor for inaccuracies, stay ahead of fraudulent activity, and learn how to improve your credit score.
Keep reading to learn how to get your free credit report online:
How to Get Your Free Annual Credit Report
Thanks to the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA), everyone is entitled to view their credit report every year from all three credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Take advantage of this to monitor your credit history, even if you aren’t planning any big financial moves — but especially if you are. Be sure to check for inaccuracies. The Federal Trade Commission reports that as many as one in five people currently have a mistake in their credit report, so it’s important to take a look at yours. Without examining your full credit report, you may miss small entry errors that could impact you down the line.
Thankfully, there’s a very simple way to do so. In order to provide an easy method to request and obtain your annual credit report, the major credit reporting agencies created a central website. Request your annual credit report by going to:
Mail: Send this form to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
PO Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
Annualcreditreport.com is the only federally regulated website that offers access to your credit report. While there are others out there, the Federal Trade Commission advises caution with all other websites as they cannot guarantee the safety of your identifying information.
If you choose to individually request your credit report from only one of the bureaus, you may do so at annualcreditreport.com as well. Some experts may recommend this technique if you wish to monitor your credit across a year. This way you can access an updated report once every four months. However, there may be natural variation between each bureau, as not all information is reported to all three bureaus. Keep in mind this strategy tends to work best if you don’t expect to make any big purchases soon.
More Ways to Get a Credit Report
If you’ve already received a copy of your credit report in the last 12 months and you want another, don’t worry. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) allows for other situations when you can request a free credit report. If any of the following apply to you, you may be entitled to an additional credit report:
- You’re unemployed and intend to apply for employment within 60 days.
- If you have experienced an “adverse action” based on a credit report, you have a right to a free report from the credit reporting company identified in the notice, within 60 days.“Adverse actions” include:
- Denial of credit, insurance, or employment
- Reduction in amount of your credit
- Reduction in insurance coverage
- Unfavorable changes in the terms of your employment or of a license or other government benefit
- You believe you have experienced fraud.
- You receive public welfare assistance.
- Your state law provides an additional credit report.
Where You Can Get an Additional Credit Report
Some states allow you an additional credit report for free or at a low cost.
The following states allow for at least one additional credit report each year:
- Georgia (two free per year)
- New Jersey
- Puerto Rico
The following states allow for one additional credit report at a reduced price:
- California – $8
- Connecticut – $5 for the first, $7.50.
- Minnesota – $3 for the first, then $11.50
- Montana – $8.50
- Virgin Islands – $1
How to Get a Free Credit Score
A common misconception is that your credit score is included in your annual credit report — it’s not. Instead, you’ll need to request it for an additional fee through the bureaus or make use of a financial institution that offers a free credit score. Check to see if your credit card issuer includes your FICO credit score. Over 50 million people now have access to their scores through their credit card accounts, and there’s a good chance you’re one of them.
If your credit card provider doesn’t offer access to your credit report, you still have other options. There are many other financial institutions that offer access to your credit score at no cost. Some apps that track your spending may also offer credit score monitoring. If you don’t already have a particular method of staying on top of your spending, an app can be a great hassle-free way to stay on top of your financial health.
Things to Look Out For
Not much is truly free. That’s why you should be wary of other websites that offer “free” credit reports. At best, these sites may sign you up for a trial period that you forget to cancel. At worst, a fraudulent credit reporting site could sell your identity. Be cautious, and be on the lookout for common scams. Some website URLs are misleadingly close to “annualcreditreport.com,” so make sure you know who you’re giving information to.
Credit bureaus, reporting agencies, and annualcreditreport.com will not email or call you asking for personal information. If you believe you have encountered a scam site, secure your account information, monitor your report for fraud, and consider filing a fraud alert.
In general, don’t give give your social security number or credit card information to a website you don’t absolutely trust. This will greatly reduce your risk for credit card and identity theft.
Whether you’re trying to improve your credit history to buy a house, or you’ve never requested your credit report, you have every reason to. It’s only a few clicks away and completely free. Armed with knowledge about your credit, you can make informed decisions with your money and ensure your future financial success.