Your Credit Report Really is Free, But Your Score Isn’t

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The heading for this post is not meant to be catchy, but to help illuminate a common misunderstanding.  Many consumers think that they are entitled to receive their free CREDIT SCORE ‘report’ because they see advertisements/solicitations from many companies offering to supply this information.  Actually, this is misinformation at best and just adds to the confusion that exists about what the law provides consumers and what the difference is between a credit report and the resulting credit score.  You should avoid these special offers and just use the official site sanctioned by the FTC, the AnnualCreditReport.com website.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) gives you the right to request and receive a FREE credit report from each of the three national credit reporting agencies every 12 months.  Your credit report (your personal credit history) will include information on where you live, how you pay your bills, and if you have been sued or have filed for bankruptcy.  Your report will also list all the companies you currently have lines of credit with, the balances you owe on each, and whether or not you have made your payments on time.  Each of the three national Credit Reporting Agencies (CRAs) will produce a slightly different credit report, so that’s why it is so important to request your report from each of them!

This credit history is what is used to determine your credit scores; remember that you have more than one credit score, depending on the credit model used to generate the numeric score.  Your credit score will not be included in the free credit report that you can request each year, BUT you may ask for your credit score by paying a fee.  More on this later.

So, how do you request your credit report from each of the three CRAs?  It’s actually easy, just visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com (the ONLY official site), OR call 1-877-322-8228, OR complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form (this single page form is available through the FTC website) and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.  By using the Annual Credit Report.com website you can order you free credit report from one, two, or all three credit bureaus at the same time.  If you use the online option to order your report then you will have access to your information almost immediately.  If you call the 800 number or mail in your request, then it may take up to 15 days from when your request is received.

If you still want to get your credit score, after looking through your free credit reports, you can purchase a score by going directly to each of the three CRAs (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian).  If you decide to purchase a credit score from one or more of the CRAs, remember that you do NOT have to sign up for additional credit monitoring services, protection, etc.  Also, the score you purchase may not be the same score model used by a credit grantor, so the number you receive may not match exactly what a lender is looking at to make a credit decision.

 

Other Sources of Information:

www.consumer.ftc.gov              website for the Federal Trade Commission, consumer information section, and is a great resource on all things related to your personal finances.

www.experian.com                      Experian homepage

www.equifax.com                        Equifax homepage

www.transunion                           TransUnion homepage