Credit reporting is a business. The big three credit bureaus in the U.S. – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – all make money selling your reports. But just because it’s big business doesn’t mean there’s no government control. In fact, federal law states that every consumer is entitled to a free credit report for each bureau once per year.
Important Update: Bureaus Offer Free Weekly Reports Through April 2021
In light of the unprecedented financial crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the credit bureaus have expanded free credit report access. You can now download your credit report from each bureau once per week through annualcreditreport.com.
We recommend taking advantage of these free weekly reports to check your credit often during this crisis, so you can avoid mistakes.
Free Credit Report
With all the services claiming to offer free reports when they’re really selling a credit monitoring service, it’s hard to know what’s real and what’s a marketing ploy. So, we’ve made this handy FAQ to answer all your questions about yearly credit reports…
Q:Do I get a free credit report every year?
Q:Where do I get my free annual credit report?
If you don’t like the idea of downloading your reports online, you can also request hard copies in the mail. You can call 1-877-322-8228 or complete a request form and mail it to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, Georgia 30348-5281
Getting your free credit report
If you use the website:
- You log on to the website, annualcreditreport.com.
- Click the button to “Request Your Free Credit Reports”
- Fill out personal information to let the site know who you are. This includes things like date of birth, Social Security Number and current address.
- Answer a few security questions to prove you’re you (the questions relate to info contained in your report).
- Choose which report you want – Experian, Equifax, TransUnion. You can also choose to get all three at once.
- Then the portal gives you a link to each credit bureau website where you can download their version of your credit profile.
If you call or complete the form you basically provide all the information you provide on the website. You tell them how many reports you want. Then they mail you hard copies to the current mailing address you provide.
Q:How often can you get your credit report for free?
It’s important to note that these are not the only free reports you can potentially get. If you find a mistake in a report, you should take steps to repair your credit. If you dispute an item and it gets removed, the bureau that issued the report must provide another free copy. This way, you can check to make sure they corrected the mistake.
Why we get a free credit report once a year
Credit reporting agencies make mistakes – so do lenders, creditors and collectors who report to them. Mistakes in reporting happen more often than you’d think.
- 1 in 4 reports contain inaccurate information
- 1 in 20 contain a mistake that would damage the consumer’s credit score by 25 points or more
So, it’s in your best interest to review your credit regularly. That way, you can check for mistakes and correct them. This will help you avoid unpleasant surprises when you apply for a loan or credit card. If you find any issues, go through the credit repair process to get them removed.
Q:Does the free report include a credit score?
If you want to get your score for free, you have a few options:
- Take advantage of free score trackers offered by many credit card companies.
- Get a free credit score monitoring service.
- Apply to one of the many, many sites that offer you a “free score and report”; then cancel before they charge your credit card after the free trial.
Q:Is my free yearly report affected by a security freeze?
States that grant you additional copies each year
There are seven states that grant state residents one additional credit report copy every year.
- New Jersey
If you live in one of these states, you get an extra copy from each credit reporting company. That means six credit reports free per year instead of just three. You can basically check your report every two months, to ensure you have an error-free profile.
Just be aware that it’s a little hard to get the extra copies. You must contact each bureau directly to request your free state file.
Working to improve your credit? This tool can help you identify potential errors and make disputes. Try it free for 14 days.
Article last modified on August 28, 2020. Published by Debt.com, LLC