Loans > How to Get Your Free Credit Report

How to Get Your Free Credit Report

Get a hold of your free credit report to see what exactly creditors and employers can see about your financial history.

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Thinking about getting a loan but noticed a change in your credit score recently? Maybe you want to figure out why, or maybe you just want to check that there’s no inaccurate information on there – mistakes do happen.

Your credit report is a helpful way to manage your financial data, holding information like your payment history and credit history, which financial institutions depend on to decide whether you’re a worthy borrower. Keeping an eye on your credit report, therefore, is crucial if you plan on taking out any huge loans, like a mortgage, in your lifetime.

Typically, you are entitled to a free credit report from one of the three major credit bureaus every 12 months. Normally, accessing a credit report any more than this will cost you.

However, with many facing harsh financial times as a result of COVID-19, everyone is entitled to a free financial report each week from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. And accessing them is simple!

In this guide we’ll show you how you can get your free credit report from the three major credit bureaus, why they matter, and how often you should check them to help keep your score in tip-top shape.

Overview & Summary

Here is a brief summary of the top five key points in this guide:

  1. Under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from the three major credit bureaus once a year – you just need to request it.
  2. You can access a copy of your free credit report from one of the three major credit bureaus by visiting www.AnnualCreditReport.com.
  3. Keep an eye out for imposter sites attempting to mimic annualcreditreport.com.
  4. A credit report holds all of the positive and negative elements of your credit history. 
  5. Checking your report once every 30 days is probably the most ideal because credit reports go through a full cycle of changes in this time.

What is a Free Credit Report?

Under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from the three major credit bureaus once a year – you just need to request it. You can do this through either Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax.

These three companies collect information on your financial history including your record of paying bills, public records related to debt (like bankruptcy) and any inquiries made about your credit.

These reports make up the basis for your credit score and so, companies buy them to help them decide how much risk a customer poses when deciding whether to offer loans, credit cards, insurance, and even to assess your ability to take on a new position.

John Ulzheimer, a credit expert who formerly worked with Equifax and FICO said, “The importance of checking your credit report can’t be understated.” The reports can also help determine your likelihood of becoming a victim of identity theft.

How do I Obtain My Credit Report for Free?

You can access a copy of your free credit report from one of the three major credit bureaus. 

Consumers can access a free credit report easily through the Experian website.

Website: To get your free Experian credit report, you can visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com. After answering some questions, you can download the report. We suggest downloading the report there and then. It could be up to 12 pages long, depending on the length of your credit history, like if you’ve applied for a mortgage before, or credit cards.

Toll-free number: If you call 877-322-8228, the report can be mailed to you.

Mailing address. To conduct the process almost entirely by mail, download the annual credit report request form, fill it out and mail it to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

What Does a Credit Report Look Like?

A credit report holds all of the fantastic and not so fantastic elements of your credit history in plane site. The reports have been designed specifically in such a way that they are relatively easy to read and understand.

The first part of the report will display your personal information like your number, addresses dating back decades, contact information, and current and former employers. Following this are the public records, for example a bankruptcy.

After this, all the details about problem accounts appear, such as anytime you missed a payment or any that went to collections. Negative marks can stay on your credit file for up to seven years. 

Person holding an iPad to improve their credit score fast
Your credit report will contain your credit score, and more.

Keep an eye out for a drop in your credit score if your repayments were accommodated in any way by creditors throughout COVID-19. After some creditors began helping ease the financial stress for consumers, some people are now noticing it has impacted their credit score.

If this has happened to you it would be a good idea to contact Experian, or one of the three major credit bureaus and ask them to investigate, and correct the issue.

Following this is the list of satisfactory accounts – these are the ones that have been reported to be in good standing.

Moving on, you’ll see the inquiry section. This will show the various request types for your credit information. The promotional requests reference the companies that have received limited information about your credit to help them determine your risk for loans, credit cards or insurance. 

You might see some other credit inquiries displayed from a time when you compared loans or mortgages, for example. Thankfully, these kinds of credit inquiries are not as detrimental to your overall report as they once were. You can begin making notes on what you want to get removed from your credit report to begin the process of improving your credit score.

📝 Why Should You Review Your Credit Reports?

Reading and understanding reports takes time and patience. Taking a quick look through and tossing it for recycling won’t do it justice. Experts recommend you set aside a fair amount of time – perhaps about an hour – to review it thoroughly.

We suggest three stages of review for each report. First, read through and note any questions you have. When you’ve done this, try and find the answers on a reputable site or get in touch with the credit bureau.

After this, you should attempt to highlight any inaccurate, out-of-date, or misinformation. Should you find any, you can dispute this information online or by mail. To finish, take a look at it from the lender’s perspective.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because you pay your bills on time you’ve nothing to worry about. Mistakes happen.

Your report can end up being confused for someone else, or it could show that you are at a higher risk for fraud. Knowing how to build credit, and what could prevent you from building credit will help make the overall process easier. 

🗓 How Often Should You Check Credit Reports?

Think about it like any other necessity in your life, visiting a dentist, a doctor. It’s not the most fun, but doing so once a year will improve your life. Checking your report once every 30 days is probably the most ideal because credit reports go through a full cycle of changes in this time.

If you haven’t had a chance to pull a free credit report in some time – or maybe ever – then consider pulling three reports at once so you’ll have a good idea of how you are rated on each of the credit reporting companies.

🦠 Free Credit Report Amid COVID-19

Typically, you can only access a report from the three major credit bureaus once every 12 months. However, throughout COVID-19, the credit reporting bureaus are offering free credit reports each week for the next year. To get your free report, go to annualcreditreport.com.

Reports should be free and accessible and no one should have to pay to see their own credit history.

If you need to pull out a credit card to pay for a credit report then you haven’t tried hard enough to find the numerous free options. Be careful not to go overboard with monitoring.

Doing so any more than once a month can make an already time consuming process slow and painful. You will see slight changes and additions here and there, but there won’t be any drastic differences.

Trading During Covid-19
Weekly credit reports are available for free during COVID-19.

It’s also worth noting that explanatory notes in credit reports have little impact because scoring formulas can’t read, so additional words won’t improve your score.

Another option to think about is a credit freeze. This would enable you to restrict access to your credit report. By law, the three major credit reporting agencies allow you to freeze your credit for free.

You can also contact Experian, or one of the other two reporting bureaus to request fraud alerts or credit freezes, or you can opt out of prescreened credit offers:

Experian

888-EXPERIAN (888-397-3742)

Equifax

800-685-1111

TransUnion

888-909-8872

Watch Out for Fraudulent Websites

There is only one website authorized to fill orders for your free credit report – annualcreditreport.com. This doesn’t mean that other websites won’t claim to offer a “free credit report”, “free credit monitoring”, or “free credit scores”. These are not covered under federal law. 

In some cases like these, the “free” product might have strings attached. For instance, some sites might ask you to sign up to a “free” service that changes to a paying service once the trial period ends.

Man creating fraudulent schemes to steal credit report scores
While there are some scams that target credit reports, following a few simple steps can decrease your susceptibility.

If you fail to cancel this period, you might be unknowingly agreeing to paying fees for the service. Some fraudulent, or imposter sites hijack the term “free report” or similar in their names; others will put a misspelled version of annualcreditreport.com in their name with the hope you mistype it on the official site.

Other times, you might be directed to other sites that try to convince you to buy something, or worse, try to collect personal details.

Experian, or any of the other credit reporting bureaus, will not request personal information from you by email. Should you receive an email or phone call, or get hit with a pop-up ad from a service claiming to be Experian, or any of the other reporting agencies, do not click on a link or respond to the message because it is more than likely a scam.

⚠️ What to Do if You Find Fraud in Your Credit Report

While mistakes do happen, some are more serious than others. Minor variations on your name and a listing of an address you never lived at could be a tell-tale sign of fraud. In addition, if you discover accounts in default that are not yours, this could be a sign of fraud, too.

The first thing you should do to rectify this is to contact the credit bureaus and the creditors to assess the information, and potentially dispute it. For example, if an unpaid debt shows on the account you might need to file a police report and affidavit.

This will help you stand out from those who tell creditors and credit bureaus the same thing, when their intention is simply to get out of paying a bill.

🕑 The Right Time to Check Your Credit Report

If you think you might want to make a major purchase in a few months or even in a few years, you should regularly check your free credit report to make sure it is accurate.

To give you more options and better interest rates, you should try to keep a high credit score, or work to improve it, if not. Don’t think you’re too young, either. From the age of 18 years, looking at your credit report is important, especially if you plan on making a big purchase in the future.

You are probably interested in owning a house during the course of your life. It’s a huge purchase, so getting the best interest rates possible can make a significant difference.

After all, excellent credit is one of the best ways to build wealth – it’s far more to your benefit to pay a 2% APR over a 4% APR on things you plan on buying.

Credit Report FAQs

Can I Get a Free Credit Report Once a Year?

Under federal law, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the three nationwide bureaus once a year. You can access the report through annualcreditreport.com, this is the only site authorized by the Government to issue free credit reports.

Make sure you keep an eye on your credit report regularly. To help, you could leverage the leading credit monitoring services.

What is the Best Site to Get a Credit Report?

There is only one official site to get a free credit report, and that is annualreportcreditreport.com. Be aware of other fraudulent sites claiming to give free credit reports.

What Credit Report do Banks Use?

Banks pull credit reports from the three major bureaus when assessing a person’s likelihood to repay debt. These are Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Understanding how to get a personal loan takes a bit of work. But doing the work will help you get the best possible rates.

Can I Get My Credit Report from a Bank?

You may be able to access your credit score for free through your bank or credit card issuer. Some banks offer free credit scores. These can be checked by logging into your account, or by reviewing your monthly statement.

Which Credit Report is Most Important?

Lenders use credit reports from one of the three major credit bureaus. These include:

  • Experian
  • Equifax
  • TransUnion

What Are the Mailing Addresses for the 3 Credit Bureaus

Experian: Experian National Consumer Assistance Center at P.O Box 4500, Allex, 

TX 75013. Alternatively, you can upload your document at experian.com/upload to submit it online.

Equifax: Equifax Disclosure Department, P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374.

TransUnion: TransUnion, Consumer Services Tea, P.O. Box 1000 Chester, PA 19022.

How Do I Get a Free Credit Report From all 3 Credit Bureaus

You have a right to one free credit report every year from the three credit bureaus. You can get your free copy by going to annualcreditreport.com, or calling 1-877-322-8228.

Does Checking my Credit Report Hurt my Credit?

No, checking your credit report will not hurt your credit. Checking your credit report regularly is recommended as it is a good way to ensure that information is accurate. When a financial firm conducts a hard inquiry in response to your credit application, this will impact your credit score. 

Are Four Hard Inquiries Bad?

Four hard inquiries within a short period could result in a lower score. According to FICO, people with six or more inquiries in recent times are eight times more likely to file for bankruptcy as those with none, something which is reflected by scoring formulas. 

On top of this, FICO is changing its scoring formula. This will see those with good scores should see their scores jump a little higher. Those already in financial distress could see their score fall. If you’re concerned, you can easily access a credit repair company near you to help you get your credit score back on track.

Can a Bank Pull my Credit Report Without my Permission?

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) has a strict limit on who can check your credit and under what circumstance. The law regulates credit reporting and ensures that only business entities with a specific, legitimate purpose, and not members of the general public, can check your credit without written permission.

Is AnnualCreditReport Safe?

AnnualCreditReport.com is the official website for free credit reports. However, be aware of other fraudulent sites that might try to appear to be annualcreditreport.com by using a similar url.

Is My Credit Clear After 7 Years?

While you will still need to repay any debts you owe after seven years, having a clean credit report will do wonders for your financial well-being. Note only the bad stuff disappears from your credit report after seven years. The positive information will remain on your credit report. If you want to start improving your credit score you could check out the most popular credit repair software.

All reviews, research, news and assessments of any kind on The Tokenist are compiled using a strict editorial review process by our editorial team. Neither our writers nor our editors receive direct compensation of any kind to publish information on TheTokenist.io. Our company, Tokenist Media LLC, is community supported and may receive a small commission when you purchase products or services through links on our website. Click here for a full list of our partners and an in-depth explanation on how we get paid.

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