April 26, 2009

Step by Step guide to Get Your Free Annual Credit Report

Welcome Clark Howard viewers. If you enjoy this article then consider subscribing to the site via the links in the upper left.

You are entitled to get a free credit report from all 3 of the major credit bureaus once every year. Its a good idea to check your reports and its FREE once a year so theres no reason not to do so. To do so go to the website AnnualCreditReport.com This is the official site offered through the credit bureaus to provide a free report to everyone.    According to the Federal Trade Commission, AnnualCreditReport.com is the ONLY authorized source to get your free annual credit report under federal law.

Why check your Credit Reports

Its a good idea to check your credit reports to make sure that everything is accurate. The credit bureaus often make errors so you should check that they've got everything right. Checking your reports is also a good way to keep an eye out for unauthorized activity that is often a sign of identity theft.

Warning: Don't be confused with other sites offering free credit reports that advertise heavily. The other sites are going to try to get you to sign up for a free trial service and then kick in a monthly fee. Make sure you go to AnnualCreditReport.com. AnnualCreditReport.com is the real site.

Credit Report versus FICO score

Your Credit report is the full detail on all your credit accounts. It will track your payments on all your loans and credit cards. The credit report is different than your credit score. Your credit score is a number from the Fair Isaac company. The number ranges from 300 to 850. Read more about it in the online guide: Understanding Your FICO Score.

To Buy Extras or not?

In my step by step guide below I recommend against buying additional services. The point here is to get a FREE annual credit report so you can check up on your credit records. The credit bureaus all want to sell you something extra in the process. You can get your Fico Scores/Reports from myFICO.com.   They have a few offerings there. One is to get all of your FICO scores in a package deal. If you're interested in getting one or more FICO scores I'd take a look at myFICO first and see what their prices are.   But you don't really NEED to spend the extra money to get the actual FICO scores. Checking your credit reports should be good to tell you if everything there is OK. [edit, you can also get 12% off Equifax FICO scores via Ebates.]

Edit Update: As of earlier this year Experian, one of the 3 credit bureaus, is currently not offering their credit score via myFICO.com. See more about that at this page from myFICO. Hopefully the 2 parties will find some agreement so people can continue to get all 3 FICO scores via myFICO.

How to get your FREE credit reports

The process to get your credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com is pretty easy. At the site you can get reports from TransUnion, Equifax and Experion.


Here is the process to get your annual free credit reports step by step

1) Log onto AnnualCreditReport.com. The site should look like this:

Pick your state in the 'start here' section shown and then hit the personal report button.

2) Give personal information. You'll next get to a page where you give them your name, date of birth, address and social security. Fill in all that information.

3) Then you get an option to pick the credit bureaus you want the free report from. You should get all 3 so go ahead and select them all:Next you'll be shown a page indicating that you're going to be rerouted to the TransUnion site to get your free report there:



From here you'll visit each of the 3 credit bureau sites in turn and get reports from them. When you get to a credit bureau you may have to verify some questions about your loan or credit accounts. They may ask you a few multiple choice questions. For example they may say "In July of 2003 you may have opened a mortgage..." and then ask you what company has your mortgage. Do not be alarmed if you don't t recognize everything in the questions asked. I got a question from one bureau asking me if people lived with me that I didn't recognize. These may be questions to differentiate you from another person with the same name or they may be trick questions. Simply answer all the questions honestly.



4) Get your Transunion report

When you get to the TransUnion site they will make you click through some stuff. They are going to offer additional stuff you can buy from them. If you want to buy a credit score then that will be extra. I'd recommend saying NO Thanks to these extra offers.

Transunion's sales pitch pictured below. 1) they offer a credit score for $7.95 extra and 2) hit 'no thanks' to decline extra stuff:


Once you get past the sales pitches you'll get the full credit report. The credit report will have entries for any kind of loan or credit card you've had. Mortgages, student loans, car loans, charge cards, and credit cards will all be listed.

6) Review the TransUnion report for accuracy.
The TransUnion report will have entries for each item similar to my Discover card entry below:
I've blacked out some stuff to obscure details.

Carefully look through all your entries in the credit report. Make sure you recognize everything there and that everything is accurate. If you've missed payments then they will show up with orange/red tone color boxes. I've done a good job making my Discover card payments and all the boxes are green. This is what you want.

Its a good idea to save a copy of the TransUnion report for your reference.

When you're done at TransUnion click on the link at the top of the page to Return to AnnualCreditReport.com :

7) Get and review your Experian report Continue on and go to the Experian site.

Again they will try to sell you other services. I'd recommend declining these offers.

You'll then get to a point that you can access your full Experian credit report. Go ahead and save a copy of the report for your records. Experians reports look different than TransUnion's. Here is a screenshot of my Discover card record with Experian:

Again you should check out all of the records in the report and make sure that everything is accurate. One key to look for is the "Status" entry as circle in yellow in the picture above. If the status says "never late" or anything like that then you're doing fine. So "Open/never late", "Paid, Closed / never late" or "Transferred / never late" are all good.

8) Get your Equifax report and review it.

Unfortunately I can't give all the details on getting your Equifax report. I had problems with their website and was unable to get my report. But I've done it in previous years so I remember what its like. The process to get the Equifax report is pretty similar to the other two bureaus. When you get to the site they'll try and pitch an extra service and it's probably best to decline that. Then you'll get your full report. Save a copy of the report for your records. The formatting of the report will differ from Transunion and Experian a little bit.


Dealing with problems

Hopefully everything on your credit report is accurate. But if there are any inaccuracies or activity that you did not authorize then you should deal with it soon. Errors on your report could be hurting your credit score and unauthorized activity is a sign of potential fraud such as identity theft. If you find anything on your reports that shouldn't be there then you should contact the individual bureau to deal with it.

If you are unable to get a report from one of the bureaus online then I'd recommend you call their toll free number to find out why and request a report.   If it doesn't work online then you may have entered information incorrectly so make sure to double check what you give for answers before you hit submit.

35 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have gotten my free credit reports in the past on-line. However, when I attempted to do so again, it said it could not give it to me online and wanted me to print out a form and send it by snail mail, along with certain documentation. Is this a problem others are experiencing? I do not have any block on my credit report. We are getting ready to move out of state and purchase a home and really wanted a report. Any suggestins?
    Thanks,
    Linda

    ReplyDelete
  3. keep in mind that when you get your free credit report you only get the report and not the score. A smart way to take advantage of the free credit report is to do something called "Staggered Bureau" to get one every 4 months. More on this at "Your Credit Sucks" which is a free guide to understanding credit.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I tried and was not able to get my credit report online either....required to print out a form and use snail mail to get it. I don't know why as I had no problem doing this a year ago online.
    Thanks,
    Alan

    ReplyDelete
  5. If the site doesn't work for you and says that you have to mail or phone the request then there could be a few causes.


    * Maybe you gave an incorrect piece of data like a typo in your social security number or something. Double/triple check all your information.

    * It could be a temporary glitch. Sometimes the credit bureau websites have problems and its just a computer error on their end. Try again a later day.

    * There could be a real problem with your credit report. Hopefully this isn't the case and I don't know what kind of problem could cause it.

    I had one of the 3 bureaus fail to work via the website and there was no apparent cause for it. I assume it was a temporary problem.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I can't access my free report either using annualcreditreport.com. Each site says I've already received my free report for this year, but I saved the web pages from the last time I checked them and it's been well over a year.

    With the credit bureaus, I'm sure it's something scammy.

    ReplyDelete
  7. This is nothing but a scam.As soon as you log off you get an email saying they are going to charge your card (using the info you just gave them for the "free" report) unless you stop them!!!! REALLY STINKS.

    ReplyDelete
  8. To the last commenter,

    You must make sure that you are at AnnualCreditReport.com That site is NOT a scam in any way. If you are at the correct site then you need to make sure to decline any additional offers to sell credit services from the credit bureaus.

    Jim

    ReplyDelete
  9. yup its a scam it wont give me mine either. have to send all my personal information through the mail in order to get my report. they want copies of birth cert., s.s. card, driver license, bills, etc, my WHOLE identity in the mail!

    ReplyDelete
  10. Will this show credit applications, like if someone applied for credit using your name?

    ReplyDelete
  11. The credit reports show inquiries on your credit so that will tell you if a company asked for your credit info and what the date was. If someone applied for a credit card then the bank would check your credit so it should show up in this way on your credit report. And if someone is successful in getting credit in your name then you'll see the account listed there.

    Jim

    ReplyDelete
  12. I had problems getting my report as well. Is it safe to mail the form, along with a copy of my social security card, previous W2, and drivers license to Annual Credit Reports office in Atlanta? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I don't see any reason to really worry about mailing the information to them. To be extra safe I'd drop it off directly at the post office.

    Jim

    ReplyDelete
  14. I have never used my credit, yet I have a credit freeze. Others who have had credit also have credit freezes. It sounds like NOBODY can order their credit reports online. Its a scam. I am not sure yet if I'm being taken advantage of by ID theft or just the routine practices of credit reporting bureaus. We are slaves and it really sucks.

    ReplyDelete
  15. The AnnualCreditreport.com is NOT a scam by any measure. The site works. Some people have commented that they have had problems but 100's of people come to this page every month with over 15,000 total visitors so far and the vast majority are not having problems. It is NOT a scam.

    Jim

    ReplyDelete
  16. I have a credit freeze at the 3 Credit Bureaus. Today I tried Experian via AnnualCreditreport.com and they rejected my attempt since I have a credit freeze on my account. They expect much too much information to be sent via snail mail so is there any other way to get our credit report? Before the credit freeze I had no problems with this site.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I just logged on annualcreditreport.com and received credit reports from all three companies - no problem, no charges. i hope to refi and this is the first time i have ever requested my credit reports. they do state you can only request them free once a year...

    ReplyDelete
  18. Logged on & got Equifax report OK today with no charge. Able to print out OK & then you also can log in & view for 30 days. You put in email address for this; went & checked my email but don't see any confirmation from them as most companies send when you create any type of account. I'm sure I put in correct email b/c you have to enter it twice. Would like to know if I should have normally gotten any type of email confirmation. Thanks lots for info.

    ReplyDelete
  19. This post was a huge help. I am trying to rebuild my credit and was considering a different site, but I will try these instead!

    ReplyDelete
  20. I was annoyed to find that my free annual credit report from Experian did not include the FICO score. Apparently the score isn't free. What is the safest site/service to use to buy the FICO score?

    I don't mind paying the small fee one time to get the FICO score but I am worried about accidentally signing up for some kind of expensive monthly service.

    thanks

    ReplyDelete
  21. At this point I don't know of any way to get a FICO score for Experian. Experian and myfICO ended their agreement with each other. FICO scores only come from myFICO. You can get other credit scores based on your Experian credit report but its not a FICO score.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I was moving along just fine, printed and saved Transunion, then, right before I was to return to Annual Credit Report, a power outage kicked me offline. When I used my browser to restore the previous session, Transunion defaulted to a sign-in page and when I clicked return to annual credit report, Transunion told me there was a communication error and I would have to call or write for my other reports. Can I go back and request the other two if I complete all the personal information again? Thank you so much. As the the previous comments, learn to follow directions folks. It works if you follow directions. Thank you so much for your time and trouble. God Bless. Katie

    ReplyDelete
  23. Katie,

    From what I've seen it seems that the three individual credit bureaus handle the report request separately. SO I am guessing / assuming / hoping that if you go back and try to do the other two credit bureaus that they will work for you. The only way to know is to try it. If it works, then great, but if it doesn't work then you may be stuck calling or mailing the three bureaus to sort it out.

    Jim

    ReplyDelete
  24. Experian is the only one you can get on line.
    The other two say they cannot do it on line and please write to them with all kinds of documentation.

    For confirmation of the above I checked with two other individuals who also reported they could only get the Experian report and had the same lame message that "yo might have a freeze on your account, blah, blah,etc."

    non of us have had a freeze on our account and the other two individuals have perfect credit and even know their credit scores. The own line access is BS if you ask me.

    ReplyDelete
  25. I just got my free credit report online for Transunion and everything worked perfectly fine. This is August 31, 2011.

    Please trust me people this does work in general. Theres no evil conspiracy to trick you into wasting your time on a website. The credit bureaus have no reason to break this intentionally and they do not want to have to field phone calls. This automated website is cheaper for them compared to opening mail or staffing phones.

    If you're having problems with one or more of the bureaus then either you mistakenly answered one of their security questions wrong or something is goofed up with the bureau with your account. In my experience their security questions are often confusing and you don't know for sure if one of their optiosn is correct or not or if you're supposed to answer 'none of the above' so it is easy to get them wrong.

    For example :

    You've got 3 mortgages between you and your wife and they ask you the value of the 'last' mortgage you got. Well do they mean the last mortgage that you got or most recent mortgage that you or wife have? Who knows. That was one of the questions I got from Transunion. Thankfully for me both mortgages were in the same range of dollar amounts.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Well, I finally got around to doing this today for the first time. I decided to go the "staggered" (one every 4 mos.) route, so only selected TransUnion for this report. I was a little worried when one of the questions asked when I had initiated my most recent mortgage - wasn't sure if that included refinances or an equity loan I had. Luckily I picked the right one! All else worked great. Thanks for the detailed info!

    ReplyDelete
  27. I'm glad to hear it worked for you and thanks for reporting out a success.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I just tried to get my 3 free credit reports form annualcreditreport.com and was only able to get Equifax report. I order my reports every year from this sight and usually have problems with Transunion but this time I could not Transunion or Experian (says I've already received these reports for this year and I have not!) This is very frustrating and you would think that these companies would have fixed these problems by now. ANd then there is no way to speak to anyone personally! This is ridiculous!

    ReplyDelete
  29. I just tried to get my credit report from annualcreditreport.com and at the end of filling out my information, they wanted to know my credit card number so they could charge me $1 which will be refunded. I logged off. What gives?

    ReplyDelete
  30. Barbara, The credit reports are free. I've never been charged anything. However the credit bureaus that provide the reports will make attempts to sell you extra options and services which do cost you money. If you go to annualcreditreport.com and then it sends you to the Equifax, Transunion and Experian websites then that is legit and safe. You just have to be careful to say 'no' to all their sales pitches.

    Jim

    ReplyDelete
  31. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  32. I found that Experian is impossible to deal with. According to them, I have a freeze on my credit and must provide a PIN number. I do not have, nor have I had, a PIN number for them. There is no phone number for a living soul at Experian, including the janitor. They have an automated telephone number that is worthless if you need more than to order a credit report.

    Are they so high and mighty that they do not think they have to endure customer calls? Any idea how to actually talk to someone there?

    ReplyDelete
  33. Wasp dudes! Amazing stuff continues the good work.

    ReplyDelete
  34. I have been getting credit reports based on this process for several years and for all of my family (wife, daughter and myself). Most of the time I get the report electronically, but there have been times when the site says I need to use a mail-in form. I was able to get the electronic version once by clearning cookies closing and re-opening the browser. But other times, I was forced to use mail, once by Equifax, and once by Transunion.

    ReplyDelete
  35. People who want to save money and improve their spending habits need to get their credit report. Even if someone doesn't think that they have a bad credit score, seeing their credit report can encourage them to keep managing their spending.

    ReplyDelete

Blog Widget by LinkWithin