Staying on top of your credit report is key to making sure you stay in good financial shape. It’s also a good way to keep tabs on your financial identity and take action quickly if that identity gets stolen.
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 reports in a matter of minutes from each of the three major U.S. credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. You just need to know where to go and be prepared to prove that you are who you say you are.
Quick Links: How to Get a Free Credit Report
- Why It’s So Important to Check Your Credit Report
- How to Get Your Credit Reports from AnnualCreditReport.com
- How to Get Your Free Credit Reports Directly From the Credit Bureaus
- How to Get Your Free Credit Report From Credit Karma
- 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 check your credit reports periodically to make sure everything is accurate and that there are no mistakes. Credit bureaus often make errors, so you want to make sure they have everything right.
Your credit reports are also the best way to check for any unauthorized financial 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.
How to Get Your Credit Reports from 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 each year and this site is the only place authorized by the federal government to give you access to all three at once.
(Editor’s note: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion are offering free weekly credit reports through April 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.)
In order to get your reports, you will need to provide 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 doesn’t offer a free credit report online.
To get your free credit report from Equifax, you must first sign up for the “myEquifax” program. As a member of myEquifax, you can get 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 its paid products. It is not necessary to do this in order to get your free report.
You can sign up to get your free Experian credit report here. One nice thing about Experian’s offering is that you can 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.
Again, beware of signing up for paid products with Experian.
Unfortunately, TransUnion does not currently allow you to access your free credit report online directly through its website. Instead, the company refers you to AnnualCreditReport.com and then tries to sell you its “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
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 as often as 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 is Team Clark’s full Credit Karma review.
What to Do If You Find an Error on Your Credit Report
As noted earlier, the credit bureaus are not immune to errors. When you check your reports, you may find information that doesn’t belong there. Here are instructions on how to get incorrect information removed from your credit report.
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. Using any of the methods above, the process is relatively painless. Best of all, it’s free — and that’s Clark Smart.