By law, the three major credit bureaus (also known as agencies or CRAs) in the United States must provide every resident with a copy of their credit report once a year, entirely free of charge. You’ll have to give some personal information to prove you are who you say you are, but there’s no need to register a credit card. Keep in mind that knowing your credit history puts you in a better place when applying for credit.
Free Reports From One Website
In the U.S., three national consumer reporting agencies – Experian®, Equifax® and TransUnion® – create and hold your credit reports. They gather data regarding your bill payments, credit cards, loans, foreclosures and court judgments, put this into a report and calculate a score for you based on this information.
By a law called the Fair Credit Reporting Act, every resident is entitled to receive one free copy of their credit report annually from each of the reporting agencies. You can order your reports by visiting each agency’s website, but an easier way is to simply visit AnnualCreditReport.com. Here you can order your free report from one or all three agencies at once. It’s a good idea to order all three reports since each agency uses slightly different information when creating your report.
To view your report online, simply answer the security questions, and your on-screen reports should pop right up. Alternatively, call 1-877-322-8228 and order a paper copy of your report(s), which should be mailed to you within 15 days.
More Free Credit Report Options
Besides your free annual report, all three reporting agencies offer you the opportunity to open an account for free and without a credit card. Opening an account comes with various benefits, depending on which agency you sign up with. Experian, for instance, will let you see your report and credit score online every time you log in.
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, all three agencies have committed to offering free credit reports weekly through April 2021. You can get your free reports at AnnualCreditReport.com or directly from Experian, TransUnion or Equifax. This measure has been put in place to help people manage their credit and combat identity theft.
Some people are legally permitted to order additional free copies of their credit reports – in addition to the free annual report – in special circumstances, which include:
- When someone has denied you credit in the last 60 days based on the data in your credit report.
- If you think you have been the victim of fraud or identity theft.
- If you’re unemployed or receive public welfare assistance.
- If you live in a state that offers free or reduced-price credit reporting.
Credit Score Apps and Downloads
For smartphone users, there are a number of mobile apps that are designed to help you stay on top of your financial health. Perhaps the best-known app, Credit Karma, gets reports from the Equifax and TransUnion credit bureaus (not Experian) and is entirely free to download. Experian has its own app for Android and iOS, which is helpful if you wish to round out the reporting. Credit Sesame gets reports solely from TransUnion but comes with a My Borrowing Power feature that predicts how much credit you may be approved for based on your current credit score.
- Federal Trade Commission: Fair Credit Reporting Act
- AnnualCreditReport.com: Get a Free Credit Report
- Experian: Free Credit Report
- TransUnion: Free Credit Report
- Equifax: Free Credit Report
- TransUnion: Disclosure Form
- Credit Karma: Home Page
- Credit Sesame: Home Page
- Report to Congress. "Under Section 318 and 319 of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act of 2003." Accessed October 8, 2020.
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "Common Errors People Find on Their Credit Report - and How to Get Them Fixed." Accessed October 8, 2020.
Jayne Thompson earned an LLB in Law and Business Administration from the University of Birmingham and an LLM in International Law from the University of East London. She practiced in various “big law” firms before launching a career as a commercial writer specializing in finance and tech. Her work has appeared on numerous financial blogs including Wealth Soup and Synchrony. Find her at www.whiterosecopywriting.com.