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 credit monitoring service. But, I did remember inputting my credit card information believing this was part of the verification process.
What did I do wrong?
First, I simply clicked on the first few links from the google results page. Second, I didn’t 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 further research, I learned about the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) requiring 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.
There is only one website mandated by federal law where you can access a free copy of your credit report from Experian, Transunion, and Equifax. You can request your credit reports from each bureau once every 12 months.
Free credit scores and credit monitoring services
There is a growing number of companies offering access to your credit report and get a free credit score. Understand these reports are not the same report you’d get from AnnualCreditReport.com. These “credit reports” are more like credit report cards that present information found in a credit bureau.
These are very useful and helpful services. In fact, it’s good practice to enroll in one of these services to get alerts and notifications of changes in your credit report. Typically, these alerts are with only one credit bureau but that at least can raise your awareness of what might be happening with your other reports.
Using these free credit monitoring services is good practice. However, accessing and reviewing your credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com is an even better practice–a highly recommended practice.
The report you receive from AnnualCreditReport.com should be scrutinized for accuracy. This is your opportunity to verify the information and dispute any inaccuracies and correct any errors.
How to access your credit report through AnnualCreditReport.com
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. Choose one credit bureau. Request the report online. Review the information. Dispute inaccuracies online. All disputes must be resolved within 30 days.
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 requested your reports for the first time, make it a process to request a copy of your reports from each bureau once a year.
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 request your Experian report, then in May request your Equifax report, and in October request your TransUnion credit report.
I recommend using a free credit monitoring service to help you monitor your credit report. These tools are also helpful in teaching you about the factors that impact your credit score.
Credit scores are a different story
FACTA and FCRA are federal laws that govern access to credit reports and the process of disputes by consumers. These laws give you the rights to access a free copy of your credit report but it does not include access to credit scores.
When you request your free copy of your credit report on AnnualCreditReport.com you may be asked if you’d like your credit score. In fact, when you pull your free credit reports, the credit bureaus may offer, for a fee, a credit score. Unless you want to pay for your score, you can always check our marketplace for different ways to get free credit scores.