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What can you do to correct these potentially costly errors? The first step is to contact the credit bureaus and the creditors or service provider to check on – and potentially challenge – the information. If the problem is an unpaid debt in an account that was taken out fraudulently in your name, you might have to file a police report and affidavit, Ulzheimer says. This helps separate you from others who tell credit bureaus and creditors the same story, but who are actually trying to get out of paying their bills.
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Then there are "educational scores," which the credit bureaus produce for you, the individual consumer, to educate you about your creditworthiness. Most free credit scores fall into this category. These scores typically employ the same 300-to-850 scale, but they use proprietary formulas for their calculations that are not the same as the FICO or VantageScores. However, they take similar factors into consideration, so they can give you a ballpark picture of where you're at. More importantly, free scores often come with information about which factors are helping or hurting your credit score. This can give you some idea of what you can do to improve your score.
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If you don’t pay a medical bill or a cell phone bill, your account may be referred to a collection agency. Once it is with an agency, they can register that debt with the credit bureau, which can have a big negative impact on your score. Most negative information will stay on your credit bureau for 7 years. Positive information will stay on your credit bureau forever, so long as you keep the account open. If you close an account with positive information, then it will typically stay on your report for about 10 years, until that account completely disappears from your credit bureau and score. If you don’t use your credit card (and therefore no payment is due), your score will not improve. You have to use credit in order to get a good score.
There are three main companies that compile credit reports: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. They typically don’t share information with each other, and the data each one collects and reports may be different as a result. That’s why it’s a good idea to review your reports with each of these agencies so you know where you stand. You can get your credit reports free once a year from AnnualCreditReport.com and access two of your free credit scores with updates every month, here on Credit.com. Checking your scores will not harm them in any way, nor will looking at your reports.

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Many people mistaken a credit report for a credit score, but they’re not the same thing. Credit scores are calculated based on your credit history. Lenders use credit scores to make a decision about extending credit and interest rates to the borrower. Your credit report is a detailed report based on your credit history based on the information lenders report to credit bureaus.
How long does negative information stay on my credit report?Typically, the negative information on your credit report tends to fall off after seven years, or 10 if you’ve been through bankruptcy. Positive information remains on your report for an average of 10 years from the day its corresponding account is closed. This information applies to accounts like mortgages and car loans, which have fixed terms on the number of years for repayment. For revolving accounts, such as credit cards, your positive history will stay on your report for as long as the account is active.
An account that’s in collections can severely damage a credit score, since its reached the point that a borrower has given up paying their bills – and now, their lender has asked a collection agency to intervene and get the debt paid. A bankruptcy never has a positive impact on your credit score, but the severity which it affects your numbers depends on your own individual credit profile and situation.
Although there is no set amount of time required to attain a good credit score, having an aged credit account does make a significant impact on your credit score value. The account age category is responsible for 15% of your credit calculation. This section of your score is responsible for giving an idea of how responsible you are with your credit since you started.
When you check your credit score for free with Credit Sesame it makes no impact on your credit score since it is a soft credit check, not a hard credit check. When doing a soft credit check you are only pulling your credit score to view how you are performing, not because you are applying for a loan or other type of credit that you are hoping to get approved for. You do a free credit check online as many times as you like (at a cost if done more than once monthly) and it will not affect your credit standing. If you plan on applying for a loan, then you are saying that the lender can “check my credit” to see if you can be approved. This type of inquiry will affect your credit score.
Also, be sure your employers are listed correctly, but don’t be surprised if you see out-of-date employment information. Lenders don’t usually rely on that data, but do investigate if you see addresses that are completely wrong (e.g., you never lived there) or variations of your name you don’t recognize. They could mean your credit information is getting mixed up with that of someone else, or they could be a sign of identity theft.

The three major CRAs are private, for-profit companies and they don’t share information with each other. That means there can be a mistake on one report but not another. This is why it’s important to review all of them for any errors (more on disputes in a minute). Meaning, when you monitor one report, you need to take a look at the other two as well.
Score providers, such as the three major credit bureaus -- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion -- and companies like FICO use different types of credit scoring models and may use different information to calculate credit scores. Credit scores provided by the three major credit bureaus will also vary because some lenders may report information to all three, two or one, or none at all.  And lenders and creditors may use additional information, other than credit scores, to decide whether to grant you credit. 
You don’t have to earn a perfect credit score of 850 to be considered successful or qualify for the lowest interest on loans. A more optimal credit score to work toward is 760. Anyone with a score of 760 and above will likely get desirable rates offered by lenders. A history of credit, on-time payments and decreasing the amount you owe will help you work toward this goal.
When checking this information, you’ll want to make sure all dates and balances are correct. Dates are especially important because they determine when these items will come off your credit reports. It’s also important to note that while paying a collection account may be the right thing to do and may help you avoid being sued for a debt, it may not boost your credit scores. If you currently have an account in collections, this guide can help you learn more about how to deal with a debt collector.

* Credit Scorecard Information: Credit Scorecard is provided by Discover Bank, and includes a FICO® Credit Score and other credit information. Credit Scorecard information is based on data from Experian and may differ from credit scores and credit information provided by other credit bureaus. This information is provided to you at no cost and with your consent. You must be 18 years old and a U.S. resident or a resident of America Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands. Your Credit Scorecard will be refreshed the later of every 30-days or the next time you log in to Credit Scorecard. Discover and other lenders may use different inputs, such as a FICO® Credit Score, other credit scores and more information in credit decisions. This product may change or end in the future. FICO is a registered trademark of the Fair Isaac Corporation in the United States and other countries.


The Government of Canada offers a free publication called Understanding Your Credit Report and Credit Score.[12] This publication provides sample credit report and credit score documents, with explanations of the notations and codes that are used. It also contains general information on how to build or improve credit history, and how to check for signs that identity theft has occurred. The publication is available online at the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. Paper copies can also be ordered at no charge for residents of Canada.
In the life of a grown-up, there are few feelings as anxiety-inducing as the moment when you get your credit report back, only to find that it’s not nearly as high as you anticipated. But fear not: there are a variety of perfectly good reasons why your credit score has taken a hit, and in this case, knowledge is power. The more you know about how your credit score operates and what can affect in, the easier it will be to get it back up to scratch.
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When you know the kinds of activities in your credit that can affect your scores, you can work to take better care of your credit, too. Things like late payments, liens or bankruptcies all have varying levels of impact in your credit scores since they're reflected on your credit report, too. Getting familiar with your credit report can help you see the impact these kind of events can have in your credit.
While your credit limit might seem like the number not to exceed on your credit card, experts actually recommend that to minimize negative credit impact, you should only be using 30% of your credit allowance. That means if you have a $9,000 credit limit, you should not exceed spending more than $3,000 before making a payment. This might seem a little counterintuitive, but the reality is credit restrictions like this are put in place to protect you. By spending much lower than your credit limit, you decrease your interest payments and ultimately your debt.
How it works: You can add your teen as an authorized user to your account by logging in to your online account or calling the number on the back of your card. The information required typically includes their name, birthday and SSN. After adding your teen as an authorized user, they will receive their own card that is linked to your account. They can use their card to make purchases just like you would.
You might be used to checking out at a store and being asked if you’d like to open a credit card. While these credit cards come with really high interest rates and are great tools to tempt you into buying items you don’t need, there is a big perk to store credit cards: they’re more likely to approve people with low credit scores. Just be sure to only use the card to make one small purchase a month and then pay it off on time and in full. Unsubscribe to emails about deals and don’t even carry it around everyday in your wallet if you can’t resist the desire to spend. Read more here. 
However, there is a big myth that you have to borrow money and pay interest to get a good score. That is completely false! So long as you use your credit card (it can even be a small $1 charge) and then pay that statement balance in full, your score will benefit. You do not need to pay interest on a credit card to improve your score. Remember: your goal is to have as much positive information as possible, with very little negative information. That means you should be as focused on adding positive information to your credit report as you are at avoiding negative information.
If you’re the parent of a teenager, you might wonder if now is the right time to help them open a credit card. It can be hard to decide if they’re ready to take on the responsibility that comes with having a credit card since you need to trust that your teen has the restraint to limit spending and pay on time. Generally, we recommend introducing your teen to credit as soon as you can since credit is such a large part of life as an adult — you need credit to take out loans, apply for a mortgage and even make certain purchases. Plus, it’s important for your teenager to learn how to manage credit responsibly so they can build good credit.
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Everyone begins with a blank slate, without any records or credit score. If you do not have any data on your consumer report you cannot have a credit score since there is nothing to calculate. The credit bureaus will begin collecting your data at the age of 18 if you begin to borrow credit. This means what when you are getting your credit card or loan you will have to go to banks or other lenders that will approve those with no credit history – usually meaning you will end up paying high interest rates. The lender will pull your credit score and find nothing upon credit request. If you are approved and pay you wills on time the lender will typically report it to the bureau.


You’ve decided to take the plunge and review your credit reports. (Good call. Credit impacts so many aspects of our lives. It’s important to know where you stand.) The first part — getting your free credit report — should be easy. Just hop over to AnnualCreditReport.com and request them online, by telephone or by mail. Once you have them, the fun begins. You get to read and try to understand all the information the three major credit bureaus have compiled about you. That may seem daunting at first. After all, most reports consist of pages and pages of information. But there are ways to keep your eyes from crossing.
When you apply for insurance, the insurer may ask for permission to review your medical history report.., An insurance company can only access your report if you give them permission. The report contains the information you included in past insurance applications. Insurers read these reports before they'll approve life, health, long-term, critical illness, or disability insurance applications.
The credit report itself is a compilation of facts about how you manage your credit, and for the most part, it is judgment free. It’s up to lenders, insurance companies or others who review your credit reports to evaluate that information and decide what they think, and they usually do that with the help of credit scores. Of course, the information used to calculate your credit score can be found in your credit report, so you don’t really want to evaluate one without checking the other.
Instead: If you keep forgetting to make payments, set up as many reminders as necessary to ensure your bills get paid. If you can’t pay on time because you don’t have enough money, try scrutinizing your budget to see where you can cut back and asking for a grace period or reduced minimum payment. Your credit card company may understand if you demonstrate that you’re working to remedy the situation.
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Under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) the credit bureaus may not discriminate under any factors such as race, color, religion, sex, age, or national origin. Although they can ask you for most or all of this information in the process of applying for credit they may not use it to determine whether to give you the credit or the terms under which it is given.
AnnualCreditReport.com requires users to register with the site and provide their basic identification information, such as name, address, and Social Security number. The user is then sent to the website of the individual credit reporting agency they select, where they are asked additional security questions to confirm their identity before getting their report.[2] A consumer can request reports from all three agencies at the same time or stagger the requests throughout the twelve-month period as a way to self-monitor their credit data.[2] In order to obtain a free credit report, users are not required to give a credit card number but establishing an account is required by some of the agencies. Any inaccuracies or signs of identity theft may be dealt with using the mechanisms provided for under the FCRA and FACTA.
When a consumer applies for credit - whether for a credit card, an auto loan, or a mortgage - lenders want to know what risk they'd take by loaning money. When lenders order a credit report, they can also buy a credit score that's based on the information in the report. A credit score helps lenders evaluate a credit report because it is a number that summarizes credit risk, based on a snapshot of a credit report at a particular point in time.
Checking your own credit score will not impact it in anyway positively or negatively. There is a difference between doing a soft credit check, which is what utility companies, landlords, or cell phone companies may do to see if you qualify for perks such as not having to pay a downpayment, and other types of credit checks that lenders usually do, which are called hard credit inquiries. Hard credit inquiries will typically reduce your score by a slight amount, but only temporarily until you start paying your loan.
Under federal law you are entitled to a copy of your credit report annually from all three credit reporting agencies - Experian®, Equifax® and TransUnion® - once every 12 months. Every consumer should check their credit reports from each of the 3 bureaus annually. Doing so will make sure your credit is up-to-date and accurate. Each reporting agency collects and records information in different ways and may not have the same information about your credit history.

You'll see how you're doing, where you stand compared to the national Average and how you got there. A lot of information goes into making your FICO® Credit Score. So, we give you 5 key aspects of credit that drive your score, including number of open accounts, how long you've had credit, number of recent inquiries, revolving credit usage and number of missed payments.


Strategies for requesting your free reportsIf you order all of your reports at once, you’ll be able to compare them easily. You will be able to verify information common to all three reports, as well as distinguish the minor differences, such as creditors that report to TransUnion but not Equifax. The downside to this strategy is that you won’t be able to order your free reports again for a full calendar year. If this doesn’t appeal to your sensibilities, you can opt for staggering your requests. One of the advantages to this strategy is that you will be able to track and verify new information being added to your reports, such as new accounts or loans.
All credit scores are a three-digit grade of your financial responsibility based on the data in your credit reports. The most widely used credit scores are FICO scores. There are several different FICO scoring models, with the FICO score 8 being the most common. FICO also offers a number of specialty scores that cater to specific situations. For example, there are FICO auto scores that lenders use when you apply for a car loan.

If you’re the parent of a teenager, you might wonder if now is the right time to help them open a credit card. It can be hard to decide if they’re ready to take on the responsibility that comes with having a credit card since you need to trust that your teen has the restraint to limit spending and pay on time. Generally, we recommend introducing your teen to credit as soon as you can since credit is such a large part of life as an adult — you need credit to take out loans, apply for a mortgage and even make certain purchases. Plus, it’s important for your teenager to learn how to manage credit responsibly so they can build good credit.


FICO® Scores are developed by Fair Isaac Corporation. The FICO Score provided by ConsumerInfo.com, Inc., also referred to as Experian Consumer Services ("ECS"), in Experian CreditWorksSM, Credit TrackerSM and/or your free Experian membership (as applicable) is based on FICO Score 8, unless otherwise noted. Many but not all lenders use FICO Score 8. In addition to the FICO Score 8, ECS may offer and provide other base or industry-specific FICO Scores (such as FICO Auto Scores and FICO Bankcard Scores). The other FICO Scores made available are calculated from versions of the base and industry-specific FICO Score models. There are many different credit scoring models that can give a different assessment of your credit rating and relative risk (risk of default) for the same credit report. Your lender or insurer may use a different FICO Score than FICO Score 8 or such other base or industry-specific FICO Score, or another type of credit score altogether. Just remember that your credit rating is often the same even if the number is not. For some consumers, however, the credit rating of FICO Score 8 (or other FICO Score) could vary from the score used by your lender. The statements that "90% of top lenders use FICO Scores" and "FICO Scores are used in 90% of credit decisions" are based on a third-party study of all versions of FICO Scores sold to lenders, including but not limited to scores based on FICO Score 8. Base FICO Scores (including the FICO Score 8) range from 300 to 850. Industry-specific FICO Scores range from 250-900. Higher scores represent a greater likelihood that you'll pay back your debts so you are viewed as being a lower credit risk to lenders. A lower FICO Score indicates to lenders that you may be a higher credit risk. There are three different major credit reporting agencies — the Experian credit bureau, TransUnion® and Equifax® — that maintain a record of your credit history known as your credit report. Your FICO Score is based on the information in your credit report at the time it is requested. Your credit report information can vary from agency to agency because some lenders report your credit history to only one or two of the agencies. So your FICO Score can vary if the information they have on file for you is different. Since the information in your report can change over time, your FICO Score may also change.
Each credit bureau calculates your scores differently. Experian uses the FICO Score 8, which ranges from 300 to 850. Equifax calculates your credit score on a range from 280-850 while TransUnion, rather than using a FICO model, uses the VantageScore 3.0 which also ranges from 300-850. The higher your score, the better offers and interest rates you’re eligible for.
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