A free credit report lets you know how well you are doing at paying your bills, repaying your loans and managing your credit. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), you may request one free annual credit report from the three national companies. Because it is important to know your credit history to ensure your financial information is accurate and secure, the U.S. government provides various ways for you to obtain your credit details. Additionally, companies like Credit Karma can help you track your progress and meet your credit goals.
Getting an Experian free credit report, or a report from one of the other companies, is simple. However, you will need to know some personal information as well as some financial information to access your report. Continue reading the sections below to learn everything you need to know about receiving a free credit report on gov websites, by phone or by mail.
When can I get my free credit score report?
You can get up to three free credit reports each year, and you can request them at any time throughout each 12-month period. For instance, you may request a TransUnion free credit report in January, an Equifax report in March and an Experian report in September, as long as it has been at least 12 months since you last requested from each company, as it does not matter when you receive your report.
However, you are reminded that you are not automatically sent a free annual credit report and, instead, must officially request each report. The FTC recommends that you utilize all three of your reports whenever possible to stay up-to-date on your credit history.
Hard vs Soft Inquiries
How to Get a Free Credit Report
Before asking yourself, “Where do I get my free credit report?” consider gathering all the information you will need when you collect your report. Whether you get a free credit report from government websites or by phone or mail through the Annual Credit Report Request Service, you will need to have access to the following types of information to verify your identity:
- Your full legal name
- Your residential address
- Your Social Security Number (SSN)
- Your birthdate
There are three ways to request a credit report from the credit reporting agencies. The best free credit report request method will depend on your availability and personal preferences, but any of the methods below are acceptable:
- Online – To request your report online, visit AnnualCreditReport.com, then select the “Request free credit reports” button at the bottom of the webpage. The website will guide you through the process of getting a report and verify that you are eligible to receive a report based on your previous requests. Anyone that wants to know how to get free credit report information the fastest should utilize this request method.
- By phone – Call 877-322-8228 to speak with a representative from one of the companies that do credit reporting. He or she can help you complete a request form over the phone and double-check that all your information has been submitted properly.
- By mail – To order a free credit report by mail, complete the Annual Credit Report Request form (available for download online) and send it to P.O. Box 105281 in Atlanta, Georgia 30348-5281, attn. Annual Credit Report Request Service.
It is important to note that a free credit report does not provide your score. While your report will detail a summary of your credit history – including how many lines of credit you have and if any businesses have made an inquiry on your credit – your score is a number that indicates how good or bad your credit history is. Typically, a low score of 300 or lower indicates poor credit whereas a high score of 700 and above indicates healthy credit.
To review a free credit report score for yourself, check it on your credit card statement or via your online banking account. You may also purchase your score from a credit reporting agency, but other companies, like Credit Karma, allow you to review your credit score at no cost.
Note: If a free yearly credit report reveals that you have a good credit history, then you probably have a decent credit score. Consequently, the FTC acknowledges that you may only need to check your credit history and score to ensure your credit is faring well.
You can also get your report here:
What does a credit report say?
Free credit reports can help prevent incidents of identity theft and enable you to take control of your financial future. Because many employers and lenders use a government free credit report to examine your credit history before offering you a job or a loan, the ability to monitor your credit via these complimentary reports is invaluable.
When you get a free credit report, you will notice that it describes how you save and spend your money. In other words, a report will detail the following:
- How many credit cards you have
- How many loans you have
- Your debt (if any)
- Your payment history
While the major reporting companies are doing everything they can to ensure your information is reported correctly and promptly, it is your responsibility to check your reports’ accuracy. If you find incorrect or outdated information in the report, file for a correction immediately.
Conversely, a free Credit Karma score tells you how likely you are to be accepted for a loan. A higher credit score means a lower risk for a lender, and many lenders also adjust their interest rates based on your score.
What to look for in your credit report:
- history of all of your accounts
- incorrect information
How to Avoid Free Credit Report Scams
Some websites try to impersonate AnnualCreditReport.com or advertise that they offer “free credit reports” and “free credit monitoring,” but they are often not legitimate. The only way to remain absolutely certain that you are getting a reliable credit report from a government-approved source is to use AnnualCreditReport.com.
However, if you are ever uncertain if a website or company can legally provide you with your credit history report copy, refer to the FTC. The FTC encourages anyone suspicious of a company or website advertising free reports to forward the information to them. Additionally, the FTC warns you not to click on any links or reply to any such companies.