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The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT Act) was signed into law in December 2003. The FACT Act, a revision of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, allows consumers to get one free comprehensive disclosure of all of the information in their credit file from each of the three national credit reporting companies once every 12 months through a Central Source.

Understanding your credit score and how it is calculated helps you take control of your credit and may lead to lower interest rates and more money-saving opportunities. Your credit report is one of the most important documents in your life. Whether you’re taking out a mortgage, a car loan or applying for a credit card, your credit report has a huge influence on the offers that lenders will approve you for.
Trying to get approved for that new car you’ve been eyeing? What about a home loan? Or even just a credit card? Every time you apply for new credit this shows up as an inquiry, which makes up 10% of your score, and can cause it to go down. Applying for credit too frequently is a red flag to creditors. If you want to keep track of how often you’re applying for credit, or want to make sure you haven’t been a victim of identity theft, we can help. See it now »

FICO scores are used by many mortgage lenders that use a risk-based system to determine the possibility that the borrower may default on financial obligations to the mortgage lender. For most mortgages originated in the United States, three credit scores are obtained on a consumer: a Beacon 5.0 score (Beacon is a trademark of FICO) which is calculated from the consumer's Equifax credit history, a FICO Model II score, which is calculated from the consumer's Experian credit history, and a Classic04 score, which is calculated from the consumer's Trans Union history.
Credit bureaus also often re-sell FICO scores directly to consumers, often a general-purpose FICO 8 score. Previously, the credit bureaus also sold their own credit scores which they developed themselves, and which did not require payment to FICO to utilize: Equifax's RISK score and Experian's PLUS score. However, as of 2018, these scores are no longer sold by the credit bureaus. Trans Union offers a Vantage 3.0 score for sale to consumers, which is a version of the VantageScore credit score. In addition, many large lenders, including the major credit card issuers, have developed their own proprietary scoring models.
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You're entitled to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies. Order online from annualcreditreport.com, the only authorized website for free credit reports, or call 1-877-322-8228. You will need to provide your name, address, social security number, and date of birth to verify your identity.
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.
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An airline credit card with an insane rewards program was released recently and you just have to have it. Or, the apartment of your dreams just popped up on Padmapper and you need your name on the call box, like, yesterday. So –– naturally –– you use one of your free annual credit checks through Experian, EXPN, +0.24%   Equifax, EFX, +1.05%   or TransUnion TRU, +0.51%   to check up on things, and suddenly you find yourself in crisis mode: why is my credit score lower than it was last time I checked?
Besides imposing no annual fee, the card has other perks, like rewarding me with a $20 statement credit when I reported a good GPA (up to 5 consecutive years), letting me earn 5 percent cash back on purchases in rotating categories, and matching the cash-back bonus I earned over the first 12 months with my account. For me, it was a great starter card, but there are plenty of other options out there.
Too many “hard” checks of your credit can ding your score. For example, if you apply for several credit cards at once, several credit inquiries will appear on your report. Too many credit checks (as well as applying for/opening too many accounts) can give the impression that you’re a credit risk. Apply for new credit accounts sparingly, to limit the amount of credit checks you may incur.
Your credit report and score play a big role in determining your ability to receive a loan, the interest rate you will pay, your ability to rent a house/apartment, buy a cellphone plan, and possibly even get a job or security clearance. The need is there, but what many of these companies don’t want you to know is that you can get a copy of your credit report for free through AnnualCreditReport.com.

You will note that all of these companies offer a free credit score and a copy of your credit report. However, receiving your credit score requires you to sign up for a free trial period for each respective company’s credit score monitoring service, generally ranging from $10-$15 per month. The free trial period ranges from 7 – 30 days, which is plenty of time to sign up for the service, get a free copy of your credit score, and cancel the service if you do not wish to continue monitoring your score.

When ordering your credit report online, be sure to spell annualcreditreport.com correctly. You will then avoid being misdirected to other websites that claim to offer free reports, but only with the purchase of other products. While the authorized website may offer you additional products, you are not required to make a purchase to receive your free credit reports.
The two biggest factors in your score are payment history and credit utilization (how much of your available credit you're using). That’s why they come first in this list of ways to boost your credit: Pay all your bills, not just credit cards, on time. You don't want late payments or worse, a debt collection or legal judgment against you, on your credit reports. Keep the balance on each credit card at 30% of your available credit or lower. Keep accounts open and active if possible; that will help your length of payment history and credit utilization. Avoid opening too many new accounts at once; new accounts lower your average account age. Check your credit report and dispute any errors you find. It pays to monitor your score over time. Always check the same score — otherwise, it's like trying to monitor your weight on different scales — and use the methods outlined above to build whichever score you track. And like weight, your score may fluctuate. As long as you keep it in a healthy range, those variations won't have a major impact on your financial well-being.
Developing your credit score comes naturally as a result of building your credit history. You’ve heard the saying “if you build it they will come?” It applies to credit scoring as well. If you build your credit history then your score will come shortly after followed by more creditors that will want your business. The credit scoring models are looking for two things before they will “score” your credit files: age and activity. For some credit score models, you must have at least one account that is greater than 3 to 6 months old and at least one account that has been reported to the credit bureaus within the last 6 to 12 months. The same account can qualify you for a score. So, a credit report with one account open for 9 months that has reported to the credit bureaus within the past 30 days will qualify for a score. Once you’ve built a score, the challenge is to maximize it.
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The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is responsible for encouraging the accuracy, fairness, and privacy of all data that is held by the credit reporting bureaus in the United States. Some of the major rights under the FCRA include you being told when information in your current file is used against you, what data is held in your file, request your credit score, dispute inaccurate or incomplete data, and the reporting agency must correct or delete the data that is not accurate or complete.
It’s a good idea to look into inquiries from companies whose names you don’t recognize. While it’s possible they could be from companies you’ve done business with (if they report under a different company name, for example), they could also indicate fraud like identity theft, which we mentioned can bring down your credit scores. You’ll want to dispute any errors you discover as soon as you can to avoid further damage. Not sure where to start? You can learn more about disputing an error on your credit report by reading this primer.

A: Under federal law, you’re entitled to a free report if a company takes adverse action against you, such as denying your application for credit, insurance, or employment, and you ask for your report within 60 days of receiving notice of the action. The notice will give you the name, address, and phone number of the credit reporting company. You’re also entitled to one free report a year if you’re unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days; if you’re on welfare; or if your report is inaccurate because of fraud, including identity theft. Otherwise, a credit reporting company may charge you a reasonable amount for another copy of your report within a 12-month period.
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