How to Get a Free Credit Report

When you’re working hard to achieve your financial goals, such as buying or refinancing a home, getting a new car, or building up your credit, you don’t want misinformation to stand in your way. That’s why it is recommended that you review your credit report at least once per year.

Lenders use your credit report to make financial decisions that can affect your future, including whether or not you qualify for loans or credit and how much interest you will pay. If the information is inaccurate, it can hurt your credit score, and you may be denied a loan or charged a higher interest rate, which can cost thousands of dollars over time.

Where Can I Get a Free Credit Report? 

It is a federal law that the three national credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, must provide you with your credit report for free. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FRCA), you are entitled to receive your report once annually, upon your request. You can get your free credit report from annualcreditreport.com.

During these financially troubling times of COVID-19, many are concerned about how their financial health may be affected. Through April 2021, you can get a free report each week through Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion so that you can stay on top of your credit. Visit annualcreditreport.com to learn more and to request your free reports. 

How Do I Request My Free Credit Report? 

When you go to annualcreditreport.com, you will be able to request your reports from one, two, or all three credit reporting agencies at the same time. You can order them online, over the phone, or by mail. You will need to provide your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth, and you may have to verify if you lived at a different address in the last two years. They may also ask you for information that only you would know in order to safeguard your data. 

Here’s how you can order your free credit reports: 

Online: Visit annualcreditreport.com to request your free reports. This is the site that is authorized by the federal government. After you go through an identity verification and authentication process, you can usually access your reports right away. 

Phone: Call 877-322-8228. After completing a verification process over the phone, your report will be mailed to you within 15 days. 

Mail: Download, complete, and mail the Annual Credit Report Request Form to the address below. Your report will be mailed to you within 15 days. 

Annual Credit Report Request Service

P.O. Box 105281

Atlanta, GA 30348-5281

What Is On My Credit Report?

Your credit report is a list of all of your financial activity, including: 

  • Credit accounts through banks or other lending institutions
  • The total amount you owe on each account
  • Your credit limit on each account
  • Your payment history, including if you have missed payments 
  • Inquiries into your credit, classified as soft or hard inquiries. Soft inquiries are credit checks and do not affect your credit score. Hard inquiries are made when you apply for new credit or a loan and can affect your credit score. Note: requesting your credit report will not hurt your credit score. 
  • Negative marks such as bankruptcies, tax liens, foreclosures, and collections

Why Should I Get My Credit Report? 

Your credit report is a record of your financial history that the credit bureaus use to calculate your credit score. Your credit score affects whether or not you will qualify for a mortgage, auto loan, or credit cards, and also determines the interest rates and credit terms of your loan. 

It is crucial that you review your credit report so you are aware of everything that is on it — both positive and negative. It is also important to verify the accuracy of your report, and safeguard your personally identifiable information from anyone who may try to steal your identity. 

Review for Accuracy

When you receive your credit report, double-check that everything is correct, including: 

  • Personal information: Verify your name, including other names you have used, date of birth, Social Security number, address, and previous addresses. 
  • Credit accounts: Make sure that no one else’s accounts are listed on your report and that the account balances and credit limits are correct. 
  • Credit inquiries: Check that you actually made all the hard inquiries that are listed on the report since they can cause your credit score to drop. 
  • Derogatory marks: Scan this section to ensure any collections, foreclosures, bankruptcies, debt settlements, and tax liens listed are accurate. 

Prevent Identity Theft

Monitoring your credit report is an essential step in safeguarding your personal information and preventing someone from opening an account in your name. If you see any accounts you are not aware of on your credit report, it can mean that someone else used your identity to open an account. 

What Should I Do if I Find Errors on My Credit Report?

If there are errors on your credit report, under the FCRA, the credit reporting bureau and the lender or institution providing the information are responsible for correcting them. 

Report Errors to the Credit Bureaus

If you find discrepancies on your credit report, notify the credit reporting agency that provided the report — Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion — in writing, telling them what you think is inaccurate and providing any documentation you have to back up your claim. They are required to investigate the matter and share your documentation with the company that provided the information. This typically happens within 30 days. 

Upon completion of the investigation, the credit reporting bureau has a duty to provide you with a free copy of your report if the corrected errors result in a change to your credit report. 

Report Errors to Your Creditors

You should also notify the creditor in writing that you are disputing an item on your report. Often, creditors will have specific contact information that you should use for submitting such requests. 

If the creditor reports the dispute to the credit bureaus, it must also send them a copy of your written notice. If there is, in fact, an error, the creditor is responsible for notifying all three credit bureaus so they can correct your credit report, and they may not report the misinformation to the credit bureau again. 

Denied Credit? You’re Entitled to a Free Credit Report

If your credit application has been declined due to any information on your credit report, the Fair Credit Reporting Act provides you with certain rights. You are required to receive an adverse action letter, which is a written, electronic, or verbal explanation of why you were denied, and that you have the right to a free copy of your credit report used to make the decision. You will only have access to the report from the bureau that provided the report (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion), and you need to make your request within 60 days. 

You should note that your right to a free report when denied credit is in addition to your right to an annual report through each of the three credit bureaus. 

In Conclusion

Reviewing your credit report will help you gain a better understanding of how your financial history is affecting your credit score. It will also highlight opportunities to have errors corrected and protect yourself from identity theft. Requesting your credit report will not hurt your credit score and you are encouraged to review your report at least once per year. 

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