How to Get Your Free Annual Credit Reports
Getting Your Credit Reports
If you're planning making a major expenditure for which you will need a loan in the near future, it is a good idea to get copies of your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus - Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.
In fact, even if you don't have any big plans to buy a house or a new car, you should generally get copies of your credit reports at least once a year and take a good look at them to make sure all of the data that has been reported about you is correct.
There's actually a ton of places advertising "free credit reports", but nearly all of them involve signing up for some kind of credit monitoring service that is free for the first month and then requires a monthly service fee.
Since the majority of us do not need to be monitoring our credit that frequently, you can skip the hassle and, if you live in the US or have an AP/FPO address, get your real free credit report without any strings attached from AnnualCreditReport.com
This website was set up by the three credit bureaus and the FTC is responsible for oversight. By ordering your reports through this website, you won't have to sign up for anything else. Just note though that when you order each report, you will receive a few different solicitations for other products from the credit bureaus. It is not mandatory that you buy any of them in order to get your credit report. So if you have no use for them, just keep saying no!
What's in Your Credit Report
The credit file disclosure, aka credit report, provides you with all of the information in your credit file maintained by a consumer reporting company that could be provided by the consumer reporting company in a consumer report about you to a third party, such as a lender.
It also includes info about medical accounts (which isn't shared with 3rd parties); account reviews, and "inquiries" -- those credit card offers you get all the time are based on these. If you want to stop those credit inquires, be sure to read my hub on How to Opt Out of Credit Card Offers.
Should you order all three reports at once?
There's two different theories to how the credit reports should be ordered.
- Order all 3 reports at once
- Order one report every 4 months
In support of your first option, ordering all three reports at once, this will give you a complete overview of your current credit-worthiness and it will undoubtedly provide ammunition to challenge any negative entries on your reports because it is unlikely that the three reports will match each other exactly. You can use the discrepencies to argue for removal based upon inaccurate reporting.
In support of your second option, ordering one report every four months, this will allow you to keep tabs on your credit history throughout the year rather than only once a year. If you don't have a lot of negative entries and you don't have to conduct a clean up campaign to repair your own credit, this is probably the way to go. Every four months you can order from a different company. By the time you get around to Company #1 again, a year will have passed and you'll be ready for your next free credit report.
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