Your credit report is one of the most important factors of your financial life. It contains a detailed history of your credit accounts, including the date you opened the account, the current balance, and the payment history for the account.
Because so many businesses use your credit report to make decisions about you, it's important that you check your credit report at least once per year to be sure the information in your credit report is accurate. Each of the major credit bureaus—the companies that compile your credit report—offers your credit report for sale, but there are instances that you can get a free credit report from each bureau.
The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (FACTA) made it possible for you to get a free credit report. Through FACTA, you can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—each year. You should take advantage of this ability by ordering your credit report and using it to monitor your credit history.
There are specific ways to get a free annual credit report that's allowed under the FACTA.
- Online, by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com
- By phone, by calling 877-322-8228
- By mail, by printing a request form and mailing it to the address listed on the form
Don't contact the credit bureaus directly for your free annual credit report.
Ordering Your Report
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) gives you the right to a free credit report in certain circumstances in addition to your free annual credit report. These circumstances include the following:
- You had an application denied because of information on your credit report. It includes credit, insurance, and employment applications. You have 60 days from the date you learn of the denial to ask for a free copy of your credit report. The company will send you a notice that includes contact information for the credit bureau that provided the report used in making the decision.
- You are unemployed and plan to begin looking for a job within 60 days.
- You are on welfare.
- You are a victim of identity theft and have inaccurate information on your credit report.
Individual State Laws
Some states have laws that allow you to get a free credit report in addition to the free annual credit report you're entitled to by federal law.
|Colorado||Free, then $8||One free per year|
|Georgia||Free, then $11.50||Two free per year|
|Maine||Free, then $5||One free per 12 months|
|Maryland||Free, then $5||One free per 12 months|
|Massachusetts||Free, then $8||One free per year|
|New Jersey||Free, then $8||One free per 12 months|
|Puerto Rico||Free, then $11.50||One free per 12 months|
|Vermont||Free, then $7.50||One free per 12 months|
The following states have reduced prices for credit reports.
- California - $8
- Connecticut - $5 for the first credit report each year, then $7.50
- Minnesota - $3, for the first credit report each year, then $11.50
- Montana - $8.50
- Virgin Islands - $1
You should order your free FCRA credit report or your free state credit report directly through the credit bureaus:
No Subscription or Credit Card Needed
Several websites now offer at least one free credit report. They make money through advertising, so they can afford to offer you a credit report for free. Register with these sites to get a copy of your free credit report:
These sites do not require you to enter a credit card number or enroll in a trial subscription to get your free credit report.
Put some time into understanding how credit works and how your credit scores will be impacted by your actions—like late payments and opening a new line of credit.
Fair Isaac Tools, the creators of the FICO credit score, have several tools that can help you understand credit scores, including a free credit score estimator and a loan savings calculator.
There are several companies—including CreditKarma, CreditSesame—that offer free credit monitoring. Carefully watching your credit score can be helpful if you are actively working to improve your credit score or are nervous about identify theft.
Sometimes, companies will offer you a year or several years of free credit monitoring when your credit information has been compromised due to a breach of their data-storage system.
Be Wary of Certain Offers
Beware of sites that offer a free or discounted credit report but request that you enter your credit card number to sign up for a free trial. These sites typically enroll you in a trial subscription to a credit monitoring service and begin charging you monthly if you don't cancel the subscription before the trial period ends.