Knowing your credit score is vital to being able to obtain the best interest rates on car loans, home loans, school loans, and any future credit cards. There are many sites out there touting free credit reports. However, there is only one site that will offer you free annual scores from the credit rating companies.
Free credit report
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you are entitled to one free credit report every 12 months. The three nationwide credit reporting companies--Equifax, Experian and TransUnion--must provide you with a copy of your credit report at your request. This law is backed by the Federal Trade Commission and guarantees consumers' right to access their credit scores.
Make sure that you have a good reason for looking up your credit scores, as you can only do so for free every 12 months. A good time to look up your scores is when you are planning to make large purchases or apply for loans. Knowing your score ahead of time will give you a leg up in the bargaining process, and will allow you to know your options.
Requesting your report
The only authorized site for free credit reports is annualcreditreport.com. Visit the site and fill out the forms. Or call 1-877-322-8228 and request your forms by providing valid and current information. You can also fill out the Annual Credit Request Form and send it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
You can request an individual score from Equifax, Experian or TransUnion, or ask that all three scores be sent together. This site explicitly deals with the three credit reporting companies.
Information you must provide
When using annualcreditreport.com, you will have to provide your full name, date of birth, Social Security number and, on occasion, other specific information. This data is used to verify your identity and to make sure no one is trying to fraudulently obtain your credit information.
Be cautious with other sites
Other sites may offer free credit reports, but they will charge you a monthly fee to view your credit score. They should be used only if you're willing to pay for their services. They're also useful if you wish to continually keep track of your credit over a shorter period of time than the 12 months specified by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. These sites generally opt you into their systems and you have to ask to be removed.