How to Get Free Credit Reports

One of the first step to help you better understand and improve your credit is to get your credit reports. Your reports give you a better understanding of what’s going on, and offer you the opportunity to spot mistakes that you may want to dispute.

What is a Credit Report

A credit report is a record of your borrowing and debt repayment activities. There are three main reporting agencies in the United States, i.e., Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion; and each keeps their own record about you.

Your report lists credit accounts such as your mortgages, student loans, car loans, personal loans, and credit card accounts; the balances; and history of payments. It also contains major credit activities such as bankruptcy and tax lein.

Financial institutions, such as lenders and credit card companies, use the information in your credit report as the main reference point when you apply for a loan or a credit card.

How to Get Free Credit Reports from AnnualCreditReport.com

The best and absolutely free way to get your credit reports from all three reporting agencies is through AnnualCreditReport.com. To get your report:

  1. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com
  2. Select your State and click “Request Report”
  3. Enter your information and click “Continue”
  4. Pick one of the credit bureaus — I strongly suggest picking only one (see below) and click “Next”
  5. Read the instruction and click “Next”
  6. From this point the instruction may varies depending on the credit bureau (I’m using Experian):
    • Enter the last 4-digit of your Social Security Number and click “Submit”
    • Skip all the marketing stuff, go to “No thanks, I just want my free…”, and click “Annual Credit Report”
    • Check the Terms and Conditions box and click “Submit”
    • Answer questions to verify that you are you and click “Submit”
    • If you pass the verification, your free credit report will be show to you. You can print your report and keep it for your record.
  7. That’s it!

Why You Should Get Only One Report at a Time

Although the credit reports are free, you can only get one report per year from each credit bureau. A strategy to help you monitor your credit more evenly is to order only one credit report at a time, wait 4 months, then order a new credit report from another bureau. For example, you can use the following pattern:

Month January May September
Credit Bureau Equifax Experian TransUnion

That was easy wasn’t it? Now you can sit down and review your credit report at your own pace. Additionally, you can also check your credit score for free and take actions to improve your credit score.

More Ways to Check Your Credit Reports

If you want an easier method of accessing your credit report, you could get an Experian credit report from Quizzle.com. Quizzle is an absolutely free way to access your Experian credit score and report. Below is a screenshot of what you’d see after you join Quizzle.

Another method is to get credit report card from Credit Karma. Note that this is not an official credit report, but the information provide by Credit Karma gives you a good indication of what contains in your credit reports and they provide a lot of good information to help you better understand your credit.

About the Author

By , on Feb 4, 2012
Pinyo
Pinyo is the owner of Moolanomy Personal Finance. He is a licensed Realtor specializing in residential homes in the Northern Virginia area. Over the past 20 years, Pinyo has enjoyed a diverse career as an investor, entrepreneur, business executive, educator, and financial literacy author.

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Leave Your Comment (2 Comments)

  1. Pete L says:

    There are some other smaller credit agencies that keep reports too, like Teletrack, which focus on smaller loans, rent-to-own contracts, etc. You can get your report once a year free from them also, or whenever a lender used their report to turn you down for a loan.

  2. Joe says:

    In Canada, we only have TransUnion and Equifax. We can get a credit report from each, annually, for free. But they make you jump through hoops – you have to print out a huge form, mail or fax it in, and wait for weeks. This is an example of companies laughing at lax legislation, because they make it extremely inconvenient and don’t even provide your credit score.

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