Because your credit report plays such a crucial role in your ability to be approved for a mortgage, apartment lease, car loan, credit card and other types of loans, it’s important to check it regularly to ensure that the information included in it is accurate.
While some credit report providers charge monthly membership fees or require a credit card to sign up for an account, the three major credit bureaus now offer free weekly credit reports. Here are the best free credit reports you can request.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the three major credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — provide you with a free copy of your credit report. AnnualCreditReport.com allows you to access each of these reports weekly for free in one centralized location, and is the only site authorized by federal law to do so.
You can request all three credit reports at once, or spread them out over the week. This service was initially offered in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but you can now access your online free credit reports on a weekly basis permanently.
Note: Your free annual credit report does not include credit scores.
How to get your free credit report
You can request your free credit reports in three steps. First, enter your name, birthdate, Social Security number, current U.S. address and previous U.S. address (if you moved in the past two years).
Next, select which credit report or reports you are requesting.
You will then be prompted to confirm your request and identity by entering the last four digits of your Social Security number, as well as details about your financial history, such as which bank provided your previous car loan.
From there, you will be able to view and/or print your credit report.
You can also request your credit report by phone at 877-322-8228 or by downloading and mailing the completed request form to the following address:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
Your credit report will be mailed to you within 15 days.
Experian provides free access to your credit report — refreshed every 30 days — when you sign up for an account. This includes free credit monitoring and notifications when new inquiries, new accounts, public records, fraud alerts and personal information updates are detected on your Experian credit report. You can also submit and track disputes online if you see inaccuracies on your credit report for free.
Note, the free credit report does not include your FICO credit score; however, you can gain access to your score by upgrading your account. For example, Experian is currently running a seven-day trial that offers access to your free Experian credit report and FICO Score, credit alerts, FICO Score tracker and more for $1. Once the promotional period ends, you will be charged a monthly fee of $21.95 to continue the service. Know that many financial institutions and credit card issuers offer free credit scores, so you shouldn’t have to pay for them.
How to get your free credit report
You can receive free access to your credit report by signing up for an Experian account — which can be done without providing a credit card number. To create an account, enter your name and address here, as well as an email address and password.
Next, verify your identity by providing the last four digits of your Social Security number, birth date and phone number.
From there, you will be given 60 seconds to answer a series of questions about your financial history. You can complete your account setup by selecting a security question and four-digit PIN. Then, access your credit report by clicking on “Reports & Scores” from the top toolbar.
CreditWise from Capital One offers free and unlimited access to your TransUnion credit report. The service also provides access to your VantageScore 3.0 credit score, dark web scanning, dual bureau credit alerts (Experian and TransUnion), Social Security number tracking and CreditWise’s simulator tool — which estimates how different financial decisions can potentially impact your credit score. You can use all of CreditWise’s features without hurting your credit score.
CreditWise is available to anyone — even if you aren’t a Capital One account holder. Just know, you must be over the age of 18 with a valid Social Security number that can be matched to a credit profile from TransUnion. You must also be a U.S. resident or a resident of Puerto Rico.
How to get your free credit report
If you are already a Capital One customer, you can use your Capital One credentials to sign in to CreditWise and access your credit report.
If you are not a Capital One customer, you must first enroll. You will be asked to provide information such as your name, birthdate, Social Security number, phone number and email address. You will then be prompted to confirm your identity and create an account.
Once you are signed in, select “Report” from the toolbar to view your TransUnion credit report.
A credit report reflects your history of managing and repaying debt to help lenders determine your creditworthiness when deciding whether to grant you a loan or credit and at what interest rate. A credit report includes the following information: personal information, open and closed accounts (up to 10 years after the account is closed), your payment history with those accounts, hard inquiries (for up to two years) and bankruptcies or default judgments (for seven to 10 years).
According to a study by the Federal Trade Commission, one in five people had an error on at least one of their credit reports. By checking your credit report on a regular basis, you can identify errors or signs of potential identity theft — which can negatively impact your ability to be approved for credit or a loan.
You can get additional free reports if any of the following apply to you:
- You receive notice that you were denied credit, insurance or employment based on a credit report.
- You believe your file is inaccurate due to fraud.
- You have requested a credit report from a nationwide credit reporting company in connection with an initial fraud alert.
- You are unemployed and intend to apply for employment within 60 days.
- You receive public welfare assistance.
- Your state law provides for a free credit report.
Plus, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, you can access your credit reports from all three credit bureaus weekly until the end of 2023.
Yes, you can purchase an additional copy of your credit report from each of the major credit bureaus at a charge of no more than $12.50 per credit report, by law.
As an expert in personal finance and credit reporting, I bring a wealth of knowledge to guide you through the intricacies of managing and understanding your credit history. Over the years, I have closely followed the developments in the field of credit reporting, staying abreast of changes in regulations and industry practices. My expertise is not just theoretical; I have actively engaged with various credit reporting platforms, conducted thorough research, and maintained a keen interest in helping individuals navigate the complexities of credit.
Now, let's delve into the key concepts presented in the provided article:
Importance of Credit Reports: The article emphasizes the critical role credit reports play in determining eligibility for mortgages, apartment leases, car loans, credit cards, and other loans. It underscores the necessity of regularly checking your credit report to ensure accuracy.
Free Weekly Credit Reports: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the three major credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion – are now offering free weekly credit reports as mandated by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The centralized platform for accessing these reports is AnnualCreditReport.com, the only site authorized by federal law for this purpose.
Process of Requesting Free Credit Reports: The article outlines a three-step process for obtaining free credit reports. Users need to provide personal information such as name, birthdate, Social Security number, and address. The reports can be requested all at once or spread out over the week.
Experian's Free Access: Experian provides free access to credit reports refreshed every 30 days. The service includes credit monitoring, fraud alerts, and the ability to dispute inaccuracies online. Notably, the free credit report does not include the FICO credit score, but users can upgrade their account for a fee to access it.
CreditWise from Capital One: CreditWise from Capital One offers free and unlimited access to TransUnion credit reports, along with additional features such as VantageScore 3.0 credit score, dark web scanning, dual bureau credit alerts, and a simulator tool to estimate the impact of financial decisions on credit scores.
Understanding Credit Reports: The article explains the components of a credit report, including personal information, open and closed accounts, payment history, hard inquiries, and records of bankruptcies or default judgments. It emphasizes the role of credit reports in helping lenders assess creditworthiness.
Common Errors and Identity Theft: According to a Federal Trade Commission study, one in five people had errors on their credit reports. Regularly checking the credit report can help identify errors or signs of identity theft that may adversely affect credit approval.
Additional Free Reports: The article mentions circumstances under which individuals can access additional free credit reports, such as being denied credit, believing inaccuracy due to fraud, or being unemployed and intending to apply for employment within 60 days.
COVID-19 Pandemic Response: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, access to free credit reports from all three bureaus on a weekly basis is extended until the end of 2023.
Purchase of Additional Credit Reports: While free access is provided, individuals have the option to purchase additional copies of their credit reports from major credit bureaus at a charge of no more than $12.50 per credit report by law.
In conclusion, staying informed about your credit report is a fundamental aspect of financial health, and the article provides valuable insights into obtaining, understanding, and leveraging credit reports effectively.