Free Credit Reports and Scores

How to Get Free Credit Reports and Scores

Paper stating excellent credit score

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It’s hard to find free credit information. Websites claim to provide free credit reports and scores, but you rarely get what they promise. Let’s review the few places that truly provide information for free.

Free Credit Reports

The US government requires that credit reporting agencies provide a free credit report to consumers once per year. To get your free credit report, you must visit the official website set up to satisfy the law - any other sites require fees or ‘trial’ subscriptions. It is also important to be aware of when you should initiate a check on your credit scores in addition to this once-a-year report.

You can also get a free credit report if you live in certain states or if something has happened. For example, if negative information is added to your credit reports, you may get a free credit report under state laws. Identity theft victims may also qualify for free credit reports.

Free Credit Scores

Free credit scores are difficult to come by, but not impossible. When searching for free credit information, make sure you look at the same information your lenders use. Some credit reporting companies and websites offer free credit scores, but they’re not the same scores that your lender uses. Ideally, you should look for free credit scores calculated by FICO.

You can usually get a free credit score if you apply for a loan, and these are likely to be genuine FICO scores. Ask your lender - if they don’t already provide free credit scores as a service or required disclosure.

Free Credit Monitoring

It’s also tough to get free credit monitoring. Generally, you have to sign up for a trial offer or have something bad happen to you. For example, if your personal information is stolen from a company you do business with, they may offer a few years’ worth of free credit monitoring to help avoid identity theft.

Free Credit Education

Learning about credit can only help. There are plenty of resources online providing free credit education. Some of the best information is at the Credit site.

Fair Isaac Corporation, the creator of FICO scores, also provides a wealth of free credit tools on their consumer website. One of the highlights is a free credit score estimator that gives you an idea of how different factors will affect your credit scores.

Beware of Free Credit Information Providers

When searching for free credit information, remember that you sometimes get what you pay for. Most websites offering free credit information want you to sign up for a subscription. If you find their services valuable, that’s great. However, it is difficult to get free credit details with no strings attached.

You may also find scammers offering free credit scores or reports. Be careful where you type in your Social Security Number. Chasing a free credit score on a site you don’t know anything about is risky—especially since truly free information is truly rare.

Finally, some free credit scores are not the same scores your lenders use. Most lenders use FICO scores on major loans such as home loans. You may get free credit scores that imitate (accurately or not) FICO scores, but are not be as useful as a real FICO score.