When I decided to take control of my financial life I wanted to understand everything I could about credit reports. I naturally turned to Google for an answer. The search results were nothing more than confusing. In fact, one month after getting my credit report, I was charged $19.95. You can imagine my frustration. I thought I had legal rights to access my credit reports for free. So what did I do wrong?
First, what I did wrong was to click on the first links on the google search result. I have to admit I was confused with the amount of results. Second, I never did read the fine print. I was so fixated in accessing my report that I just went through the motions. And finally, I should have known that inputting my credit card was a sign that these credit reports were not free.
A few years later and a much wiser me, I now know there is only one true place to get my free credit report.
So here it is, there is only one government mandated site where you can access all 3 credit bureau reports for free. That site is AnnualCreditReport.com. You’re allowed access to each of your credit report once every 12 months.
I won’t repeat the more catchy URLS in an effort not to reinforce the marketing prowess of those websites. Remember, it’s www.AnnualCreditReport.com.
The AnnualCreditReport.com website isn’t pretty. But, it’s pretty easy to access each of your credit report. That’s what matters. Make sure you are in the right website by:
Double checking the URL. Make sure it’s www.AnnualCreditReport.com.
Not paying to get your credit report. If you find yourself having to pay for your credit report than you are on the wrong “free” credit report website. Accessing your credit report on AnnualCreditReport.com does not require a credit card.
Once you’ve verified that you are on the right free credit report website, it’s good to keep the following information in mind.
1. 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.
2. Don’t pull all 3 credit reports at the same time. Having access to all three credit reports does not mean pulling all three at once is the best approach. The amount of information you’ll need to sift through can be quite daunting. Pull one credit report at a time. Review the credit report and dispute any inaccuracies. The dispute process is quite easy through the credit bureaus.
Once you’re satisfied with the credit report, pull the second report and follow the steps above once again. Follow these steps until you’ve reviewed and corrected all three credit reports.
I find that once you’ve got a handle on your credit reports you can pull your new credit report once every 4 months. Or, you can use CreditKarma, which offers a free daily credit monitoring service. They also offer a free credit score. But, it’s important to pull your actual credit report through AnnualCreditReport.com annually.
3. Credit scores are a different story. The federal law that gives you access to free credit reports does not give you access to free credit scores. If you want your credit score you’ll be required to pay for it through the credit bureau website.[Read more on How to get your free credit score]
4. Denied credit, insurance or employment. If you were denied a job or service because of information on your report, you have the right to request a copy of your credit report. The letter sent to your home will give you the specifics to access your credit report and will also provide your credit score. However, if you know which credit bureau was used in the assessment, you can go directly to the credit bureau and request a copy of your report. You can indicate “denial” as the reason.
5. Living in certain states. If you live in Colorado, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Vermont, under State Law, you are entitled to free credit reports in addition to the free credit reports through AnnualCreditReport.com.