How to Get a Free Credit Report

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Credit report application
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Staying on top of your credit report is key to making sure you stay in good financial shape and haven’t had your identity stolen.

Luckily, there are a few different ways to get free credit reports pretty much any time you want to see them. In this article, we’ll show you what your options are.

You Can Get Your Free Credit Report From These Sources

It’s possible to get your free credit report or reports in a matter of minutes. You just need to know where to go and be prepared to prove you are who you say you are.

Quick Links: How to Get a Free Credit Report

  1. Why It’s So Important to Check Your Credit Report
  2. How to Get Your Credit Reports from AnnualCreditReport.com
  3. How to Get Your Free Credit Reports Directly From the Credit Bureaus
  4. How to Get Your Free Credit Report From Credit Karma
  5. What to Do If You Find an Error on Your Credit Report

Why It’s So Important to Check Your Credit Report Periodically

It’s important to periodically check your credit reports to make sure everything is accurate and that there are no mistakes. The credit bureaus often make errors, so you want to make sure they have everything right.

Checking your credit reports is also the best way to check for any unauthorized activity. You may not even realize someone has gotten their hands on your information until you find an unauthorized bill or account in your name on your credit report.

Identity theft and other mistakes can really throw your financial life into disarray, so it’s crucial that you keep up with your reports.

Credit Reports vs. Credit Score

Your credit reports include all the details on your credit accounts, both current and closed. The reports track payments and other information for every loan, credit card and any other line of credit you have. 

Your credit score, on the other hand, is a number based on your credit history and activity.

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How to Get Your Credit Reports from AnnualCreditReport.com

AnnualCreditReport.com
AnnualCreditReport.com

If you’re looking to get your credit reports from all three major credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion), your first stop should probably be AnnualCreditReport.com. It’s important to review all three reports because they may not all contain the same information.

By law, you are entitled to one free copy of your credit report from each of the bureaus per year and this site is the only place authorized by the federal government to give you access to all three at once.

In order to get your reports, you will need to fill out some personal information — including your Social Security number — select the reports you want, and then request and review each report. If you have access to a printer, you can print your reports for viewing later.

Note that you may have to answer some additional security questions about past places of residence and old accounts you may have had in order to get access to your reports, so be prepared for that.

How to Get Your Free Credit Reports Directly From the Credit Bureaus

If you’d rather get your free reports directly from the credit bureaus themselves, that’s possible in two of the three cases. TransUnion does not currently allow you to access a free credit report online.

Equifax

Equifax
Equifax

In order to get your free credit report from Equifax, you must first sign up for their myEquifax program. As a member of myEquifax, you are given access to your Equifax credit report twice per year at no charge.

Beware, though, as Equifax may try to push you toward signing up for one of their paid products. It is not necessary to do this in order to get your free report.

Experian

Experian
Experian

You can sign up to get your free Experian credit report here. One nice thing about Experian’s offering is that they allow you to access your credit report for free every 30 days after you sign up. This could be useful if you’re in the process of trying to buy a house or car and want to keep close tabs on your report.

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Again, beware of signing up for paid products with Experian.

TransUnion

Transunion
Transunion

Unfortunately, TransUnion does not currently allow you to access your free credit report online directly through them. Instead, they point you back to AnnualCreditReport.com and try to sell you their “credit monitoring” product for $24.95 a month. Don’t do it! Here’s why money expert Clark Howard says you should never pay for credit monitoring.

How to Get Your Free Credit Report From Credit Karma

Credit Karma
Credit Karma

Another way to get free credit reports is through Credit Karma, a site that also allows you to keep tabs on your credit score. Credit Karma gives you access to your reports from both TransUnion and Equifax and will even highlight important information to make the reports easier to understand. Your reports can be updated once a week and you can check them as often as you want.

Team Clark recommends Credit Karma as a free way to monitor your credit. Here are step-by-step instructions on how to sign up.

What to Do If You Find an Error on Your Credit Report

As we said earlier, the credit bureaus are not immune to errors. When you check your reports, you may find information that doesn’t belong there. We have instructions on how to have incorrect information removed from your credit report here.

Final Thought

Checking your credit report may not be at the top of your list of things to do in your spare time, but it’s something Clark says you absolutely should do at least once per year. Making sure your report is correct and that there hasn’t been any unauthorized activity in your name is the surest way to keep your credit in tip-top shape. Using any of the methods above, the process is relatively painless. Best of all, it’s free — and that’s Clark Smart.

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