You are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three main credit bureaus every year. Those credit reports are essentially financial report cards. Opening them up can be a little scary, but the information they contain can help you build better financial habits and healthier financial life.
If you’re worried about receiving a package of incomprehensible financial jargon, check out our guide to understanding your credit report. It’s the perfect place to start!
Before you can read your reports, you need to get them. Read on for the best ways to get a free credit report!
Get Your Free Annual Credit Report
Your credit reports are collected by three credit reporting companies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Each of the companies is legally required to provide one free credit report annually to any person who requests it.
Your credit reports may be different, as not all creditors report to all three bureaus.
💡 Did you know that only 33% of Americans checked their credit reports each year?
Request a Free Credit Report Online
There are two ways you can request a free credit report online.
👉 Annual Credit Reports is a website developed by Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion to provide consumers with copies of their free credit reports.
You can select whether you want an Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion credit report from the site. Some consumers like to get all three at the same time. Others prefer to get one every four months.
👉 The second option is through each of the three main credit reporting companies’ websites.
- Request a free credit report from Experian.
- Request a free credit report from Equifax.
- Request a free credit report from TransUnion.
Use the Phone
If you prefer to use the phone, you can call the Annual Credit Reports Service line at (877) 322-8228. Someone will be available to walk you through the steps to request your free credit report. After you make the call your free credit report will be mailed to you within 15 days.
📞 Keep in mind that you will need to provide your full name, address, and social security number over the phone. Have this information ready when you call.
Use the Mail
If you want to mail in your request to Annual Credit Reports, you can download and print out the mail-in request form. Once you fill in the form you should mail it to the following address:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
Your free credit report will be mailed to you within 15 days.
Get Your Credit Score for Free
Your credit score is a summary of your credit report in numerical form. It includes total outstanding debt, payment history, bankruptcies, foreclosures, change-offs, and your history of securing and paying off debt. It won’t give you as much information as a full report, but it’s a good quick summary of your credit health.
There are several ways to get a truly free credit score:
- Your Credit Card Company
- With ID Theft Protection
- Through Your Bank
- Third-Party Sites
⚠️ If there’s a sudden change in your credit score, you might want to check your credit reports: this can be a sign of identity theft.
The two main providers of credit scores are the Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) and VantageScore. Most lenders use FICO, but most free credit score providers get scores from VantageScore.
☝️ Remember that the credit score you get from a free provider may be different from the score a lender sees.
Free Credit Scores from Banks and Credit Card Issuers
Many banks and credit card companies give free credit scores. Some require you to have a bank account or credit card with them, while others are available to anyone.
If you have an account with any of these banks, ask about access to free credit scores.
- Bank of America
- Chase Bank
- Capital One Bank
- Wells Fargo Bank
Whether or not you have a bank account or credit card, Discover, American Express and Capital One Bank provide free credit scores. Here is where you can access them:
- Discover provides a FICO score, whether you are a cardholder or not.
Access your free FICO score from Discover
- American Express provides FICO scores from TransUnion, updated monthly.
Access your FICO score through American Express
- Capital One Bank Provides your VantageScore 3.0 system provided by Transunion, through their own system called CreditWise.
Get your CreditWise score from Capital One
These credit scores are not a replacement for your annual credit report, but keeping an eye on your credit score can tip you off to any changes you need to investigate.
Reports to Avoid
To protect your identity, be careful of any companies that claim to give free credit reports that are not recognized banks or the US government-endorsed sites.
⚠️ When requesting a free credit report, you will need to provide your full name, address, and social security number. If the site is not an official site recognized by the US government, your personal information could be compromised.
In addition, many companies claim to provide free credit reports that actually charge for this service. Companies like these will advertise a free credit report but you’ll need to pay a subscription to their website to actually get it.
Both your credit reports and credit scores can help you to track your credit and improve your credit history. Your credit score can alert you to a problem. You will be able to check your report to make sure the information reported is correct. If there’s an error on your credit report or an anomaly that could indicate identity theft, you’ll be in a position to take immediate steps to address the problems.
Getting and reading your credit report takes some effort, but it’s worth it. The information in your credit report can help you control your finances, rather than being controlled by them. That’s an essential part of managing your money!