Federal law states that every consumer is allowed one free copy each year, but really, you can get three.
Credit reporting is a business. The big three credit bureaus in the U.S. – Experian, Equifax 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 can get one free credit report for each bureau once per year.
Still, 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: Are you entitled to a free credit report every year?
A: Yes! The Fair Credit Reporting Act is a federal law that states every consumer can get one free annual credit report. Each credit reporting company must provide one free copy of your credit report upon request once every twelve months.
Q: Where do you get your free yearly credit report?
A: You go through a government-mandated website known as annualcreditreport.com. It’s a website run by the three bureaus so they adhere to the FCRA government regulations. This is not a credit monitoring service! It will never try to sell you anything or flood your inbox with credit offers. It’s just there to give you an easy way to download your reports.
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
Q: How do I get my free report?
A: 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 many free credit reports are you entitled to per year?
A: In practice, you actually get 3 reports instead of just 1 per year. There are three credit bureaus and each bureau follows the same mandate. So, you get one report from Equifax, one from Experian and one from TransUnion. There’s no requirement to obtain all three at the same time. This means you can space them out throughout the year, allowing you to check your credit reports regularly.
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.
Q: Why can we get a free credit report once a year?
A: 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 incorrect 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?
A: No. Your free yearly reports through this service will never include a credit score. It’s worth noting that you don’t really need your score to know where your credit stands. Scoring is based on the information contained in your report. If you have no negative items and a long, positive credit history, you can assume your score is good. However, you won’t know the exact number.
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?
A: No. If you place a security freeze on your credit report, it does not prevent you from looking at your reports. During a credit freeze, you can still get your reports using the processes described above. However, creditors and lenders can’t get your reports. This helps you prevent identity theft and fraud, without hindering your ability to monitor your own credit.
Q: Which states grant you additional copies each year?
A: 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.
Article last modified on March 14, 2018. Published by Debt.com, LLC . Mobile users may also access the AMP Version: Where and How to Get Your Free Yearly Credit Report - AMP.