Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion are required to provide you with a free copy of your credit report weekly. They’re also required to see to it that the credit information they hold on you is accurate and relevant.
Your credit report consists of all your credit and loan applications, payment history, debts and other vital financial information that lets lenders judge if you’re a good or bad candidate for credit. You’re entitled to a free credit report once a year, so maybe it’s time that you find out how to access your financial report card.
You can get your free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com. You can receive reports from the three nationwide credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
It’s recommended to stagger your credit report requests from each credit bureau so you can see how your credit is performing periodically throughout the year.
Keep in mind that when you request your free credit report from any of the three credit bureaus, your credit score will not be included.
You’ve got a few options for how to request your credit report — online, mail or by phone.
- Online. This option will show you your credit report immediately. All you have to do is head to AnnualCreditReport.com, enter your personal information, answer security questions and request your report or reports from the three bureaus.
- Mail. You’ll have to wait up to 15 days from your request if you want a hard copy of your credit report in the mail. Fill out the request form and mail it to:
- Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
- Phone. If you’d rather call to request your credit report or you’re visually impaired and want to receive Braille, audio or large print credit reports, call AnnualCreditReport.com at: 1-877-322-8228
Watch out for imposter credit report websites
AnnualCreditReport.com is the only government mandated website that provides free annual credit reports. Other websites might say their service is free, but it’s likely that there’s something they’re not disclosing — whether it be signing you up for a trial period or collecting your personal information.
When requesting your credit report, here’s the information you’ll need to provide:
- Social Security number
- Address (if you’ve recently moved, you may have to provide your previous address)
Once you’ve entered your personal details, each bureau may ask different questions pertaining to your finances that only you would know to safeguard your identity.
Contact the bureau that’s denied your request to find out the reason why — they’ll typically give you an explanation and provide the further actions you need to take to receive your credit report.
It’s possible that the bureau you requested your credit report from either needs more personal information to confirm your identity, or that you’ve entered incorrect details on the request form.
To be a master of your finances, you should know what’s on your credit report. A yearly check and revision can help improve your chance of getting loans and credit card applications approved.
- Spotting incorrect personal information. Details of your current address, employment information and other personal details need to be accurate when applying for credit.
- Checking for incorrect negative information. Negative information may include past due or unpaid debts, collections, charge-offs, bankruptcy, court judgements, repossessions or other black marks that would make your credit history look bad to lenders. Any incorrect information needs to be disputed and fixed so your credit report remains healthy.
- Protecting your identity. It’s possible that there’s an account listed on your credit report that’s not yours — that needs to be addressed with the credit reporting agencies as soon as possible so your credit score isn’t affected.
- Accessing credit. Lenders are more likely to approve your credit application if you currently have little to no debt, have a history of making payments on time and have had a stable job and address.
By checking your credit report every 12 months, you can make sure the credit reporting agencies have the correct information and confirm that your credit identity is safe and hasn’t fallen victim to fraudulent activity.
If you discover any errors or fraudulent accounts on your credit report, contact the bureau and request to have your credit file updated to avoid a potential headache when applying for a credit in the future.
In some cases, you’re eligible to receive a free credit report if you’ve:
- Recently had a credit application rejected
- Been denied insurance or employment
- Found out there might be fraudulent activity on your credit report
- Been unemployed and are seeking a job within the next 60 days
- Been collecting welfare
In most other situations, you’ll have to buy a credit report from one of the three credit report agencies.
You’ve got nothing to lose by requesting your free annual credit report. In fact, by being aware of your finances you’ll have a better understanding of what financial products may be available to you. You’ll also be presented with the opportunity to fix any mistakes that may have been listed on your credit file.
And even though you probably already know this, it bears repeating that your credit score dictates a lot of your borrowing power. By knowing exactly where you stand, you can either continue to maintain a healthy score or start making improvements.