Your credit report is a history of past and current credit activity. Lenders use it to assess the risk of extending new or continuing credit — everything from credit cards to auto and home loans. If you’re looking to apply for new credit, you should get a free credit check first by reviewing your credit report.
Regular viewing of your credit report can also protect against identity theft, as it lists all your accounts. You should also check for and dispute any credit report errors because more than one in five consumers has a major mistake on their credit report, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Read on to learn how to get your credit report for free.
Steps to Get a Free Credit Report
The way to find the best free credit report is to visit AnnualCreditReport.com, the official site authorized by federal law to give you free access to your credit report. You’re entitled to a free annual credit report from each credit bureau: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. If you stagger your requests from each of the three major credit bureaus, though, you can get a free credit report every four months. Note that AnnualCreditReport.com does not provide a credit score.
Follow these steps to get a free credit report:
- Go to AnnualCreditReport.com.
- Click on “Request your free credit reports.”
- Enter your personal information such as name and address, date of birth and Social Security number.
- Request your report from one, two or all three of the credit bureaus.
- Answer the challenge questions to verify your identity. These questions come from your credit report and ask for information only you would know, such as the amount of your outstanding loans or prior addresses. After you answer all the questions correctly, your reports will appear on the screen.
- Print or download the reports for future reference.
You can request your credit report by phone or mail rather than through the website. You will have to provide the same personal information. Call 877-322-8228 to provide the information over the phone or download, complete and mail the credit report request form to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
Learn More: How to Read a Credit Report
Other Ways to Get Your Credit Report
Here are other options for how to access your credit report, although they might not all be free:
Apply for Credit
When you apply for credit and get denied, the lender that pulled your credit report is required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act to provide the name and address of the credit bureau it contacted. You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from that credit bureau if you make the request within 60 days of receiving your denial notice.
Sign Up for Credit Monitoring Service
Credit monitoring services offer access to credit reports and your FICO score inexpensively, and sometimes for free. For example, GOFreeCredit.com offers free credit scores and $1 credit reports if you subscribe to its credit monitoring service.
Contact a Specialty Consumer Reporting Agency
Beyond the big three credit bureaus, a number of companies provide specialized reporting for various purposes, such as employment or tenant screening, medical screening, or low-income and subprime borrowing. Federal law requires most specialty lenders to provide one free credit report every 12 months upon request. You can also request additional reports at any time for a fee not to exceed $12.
Up Next: How to Dispute Credit Report Errors