Money Smarts

How to Get Your Free Credit Report for Real

AnnualCreditReport.com is a website jointly operated by the three major U.S. credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. The site was created in order to comply with their obligations under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) to provide a mechanism for American consumers to receive up to three free credit reports per year.

When I took control of my financial life I wanted to understand credit reports and credit scores. I instinctively turned to Google to find answers. The results were overwhelming. I wasn’t quite sure if the information I was reading was correct. Eventually, I chose a link among the results to review my credit report and score.

To my surprise, 30 days later I was charged $19.95 for a monthly subscription. I didn’t realize I subscribed to a service but I did remember I inputted my personal info and a credit card. You can imagine my frustration.

But, what did I do wrong?

First, I simply clicked on the first few links from the results page. Second, I never read the fine print when I accessed the credit report. And lastly, I should have known when I inputted my credit card I was signing up for a service.

Through my research, I learned the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA), required credit bureaus to provide consumers access to free credit reports once every 12 months. There is only one website that is jointly operated by the credit bureaus: www.annualcreditreport.com.

So here it is, there is only one federally mandated website where you can access all 3 credit bureau reports for free.  You can request your credit reports from the bureaus once every 12 months. Again, that website is www.AnnualCreditReport.com.

There are many services that now offer access to credit reports and credit scores. These services are helpful. Many offer free credit monitoring services and free credit scores. But, it’s important to get your credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com. The report you receive from AnnualCreditReport.com has all the information that needs to be verified and accurate.

The AnnualCreditReport.com website isn’t pretty. However, accessing your credit report is quite easy. There are three credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. You are able to pull all 3 credit reports from these credit bureaus through AnnualCreditReport.com.

Follow these tips to help you get your free credit report:

Double check the website URL: www.AnnualCreditReport.com

Don’t input your credit card. If you’re entering your credit card to access your credit report, then you’re on the wrong credit report website. Again, no credit card input needed at the correct website.

Don’t pull all 3 credit reports at the same time. The amount of information you’ll need to sift through can be quite daunting.  Get one credit report at a time.

  • Pull your first credit report from the AnnualCreditReport.com
  • Review the credit report and dispute any inaccuracies.  You can dispute directly with the credit bureaus.

Once you’re satisfied with the credit report, pull the next credit report, and follow the steps above once again.  Follow these steps until you’ve reviewed and corrected all three credit reports.

After you’ve done this, each year you can stagger your request. I find that once you’ve got a handle on your credit reports you can pull your new credit report once every 4 months. For example, in January get your Experian credit report, then in May you can get Equifax, and in October get your TransUnion credit report.

I recommend using a credit report monitoring tool to help you monitor your credit report and learn the factors that impact your credit score. However, it’s VERY important you pull your actual credit report through AnnualCreditReport.com, annually.

Credit scores are a different story. The federal law (FACTA) giving you access to free credit reports does not include free credit scores. In fact, when you pull your free credit reports, the credit bureaus may offer, for a fee, a credit score.  If you want your credit score, check out the marketplace.

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Jason Vitug

Jason Vitug is founder at phroogal, creator of the award-winning project the Road to Financial Wellness, and author of the bestseller and NY Times reviewed book, You Only Live Once: The Roadmap to Financial Wellness and a Purposeful Life.

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3 thoughts on “How to Get Your Free Credit Report for Real”

  1. Thank you, I’ve recently been looking for information about this topic for a while
    and yours is the best I have discovered so far.
    However, what about the conclusion? Are you positive about the source?

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