Although many sites advertise free credit reporting, you don’t need to risk supplying personal information such as your Social Security number and birth date to unknown providers. The federal government’s Fair Credit Reporting Act provides a secure, safe way to get your free credit report from all three national reporting bureaus at the Annual Credit Report website.
The Federal Trade Commission ensures that your credit report is secure, private and accurate by regulating the credit reporting services that these companies provide to you and lenders. Annual Credit Report is the only official online provider of free annual credit reports from TransUnion, Equifax and Experian.
Choose Free Reports Frequency
The Annual Credit Report site lets you get all three reports at the same time or just one of your credit reports. You can stagger the reports throughout the calendar year by taking only one report from one credit reporting agency, then take the next report three or four months later until you have requested all three. When you space your credit reports out this way, it’s easier to track changes and discover discrepancies between the different reports.
As of 2020, Equifax lets you get six more free reports. Contact them by phone at 1-866-349-5191 or make your request on the Equifax website. All three reporting services currently offer online weekly free credit reports through April 2021. You’ll still need to use the Annual Credit Report website to get your free weekly reports.
Low-Tech Free Credit Report
The FTC lets you request your annual free credit report by mail and by telephone. These methods are slower but just a secure as an online request. Download the Annual Credit Report Request Form to request your report by mail. When you finish filling in the form, mail it to the address provided on the form in a stamped business-size envelope.
Call 1-877-322-8228 to request your annual free credit report by phone. After you supply the needed information, you will receive the report in the mail.
Credit Score Impact
Unlike a car loan or credit card application, requesting a free annual credit report does not affect your credit score. The national credit reporting agencies categorize credit inquiries into two groups: hard and soft pulls. Under current regulations, requesting your personal credit report is a soft pull that has no effect on your credit score.
Inquiries for mortgage and vehicle loans are hard pulls that usually affect your credit score. However, many factors determine how each reporting agency arrives at your credit score. If your credit score is dropping, it may help you to review recent financial transactions and inquiries to pinpoint the cause of the problem.
Reputable Free Credit Score Sources
None of the national credit reporting companies supply free credit scores when you access your annual free credit report. When they offer promotional trials, you only get the score that they use. You need to contact each reporting agency to get their credit scores and find out what they charge.
Many large banks offer their customers the choice to get their credit score at no charge. The process varies with each bank, and you might need to contact your bank to opt into the service. It’s likely that you will not be able to choose which credit reporting company’s score you’ll receive. However, these scores will be useful for knowing if and when your credit profile is going in the right or wrong direction.
Credit card issuers also have free credit score programs for consumers. Some provide this service for people who are not currently their customers. Like banks, each credit card company only reports one of your credit scores to you. Combine free credit score subscriptions to receive reports from all three reporting agencies to get complete information.
- Annual Credit Report: Getting Your Credit Reports
- Federal Trade Commission: Free Credit Reports
- Federal Trade Commission: Annual Credit Report Request Form
- CNBC: Five Reasons Your Credit Score Could Suddenly Drop
- Bankrate: How to Get a Free Credit Score
- Forbes: Eight Credit Card Issuers That Offer A Free Credit Score
- 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.
- It is much easier to keep your credit score from dropping than to fix it after it drops. Negative marks stay on your credit report for up to seven years, and although their effect dwindles over time, it can be difficult to recover from them.
- Do not provide your Social Security number or credit card information to an unfamiliar website promising credit reports. Annual Credit Report is the only government-authorized site for your free annual credit reports. You can also safely obtain credit reports for a charge from the Experian, Equifax, TransUnion and FICO websites.
Carol Luther has published feature articles in print magazines, ghostwritten blogs, and produced digital content since 2007. She has published personal finance and small business articles for the Houston Chronicle, Mahalo, the Nest, USA Today, Wahm, and Zacks. Carol has designed, implemented and managed multi-year, multimillion-dollar domestic and international projects services for higher education, nonprofits, and small to medium businesses for more than 20 years.