Your credit report is an overview of your credit history and current credit accounts. It also contains a credit score, which represents your credit-worthiness (i.e. your ability to obtain new credit).
It is important to view your credit report regularly so you have an idea of the types of credit you can apply for.
If you apply for a loan online, for example, and you have a low score, you will be rejected and this can further harm your score.
Lenders will access the report as part of a credit check, so it is also important to check that all of the information is accurate and your score isn’t being affected by false data.
Accessing your credit report can cost a fee if you use the most common agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion), but there are many ways to get it for free as well. Here are 5 of the most common ways of checking your credit report for free …
1) Via Credit Card Company
An increasing number of credit card companies are offering regular free access to your credit report as one of their perks. This may be with any of the big three agencies.
Usually, you won’t have unlimited access, but can log-in once a month or every few months to keep on top of things.
If this option is available to you, it will be listed under the offers in your online credit card account.
2) Credit Karma
Credit Karma is one of several websites that allow you to access your credit report for free. This particular site lets you access either your TransUnion or Equifax report.
All you have to do is register for a free account and follow their instructions.
Sites like Credit Karma are able to provide the service for free by delivering you targeted ads and utilizing your personal data.
They also offer a number of other free financial services.
Similar sites include CreditSesame.com, Quizzle.com, and WalletHub.com.
3) Once Every 12 Months
You may be unaware, but every US citizen is entitled to access their credit report from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion once every 12 months. You can also do this once per agency, so in effect, you can access three free reports in a year.
If you space these out, you might not need to use any other method.
To claim your free reports, simply go to AnnualCreditReport.com and follow their instructions.
Beware, however, each bureau may attempt to hook you into a subscription for unlimited access.
4) Via the FCRA
You might also be entitled to additional free credit reports if you meet the criteria outlined by the Fair Credit Reporting Act. This includes:
- If you will be actively seeking employment within 60 days.
- If you are a recipient of welfare.
- If you are a victim of identity theft and/or have learned that you have inaccurate information on your report.
- If you have been denied credit because of a credit check of your report, as well as being denied insurance and employment because of a credit check. You must make use of this option within 60 days of the rejection. In most cases, the company will provide you with information about the bureau they used to carry out the credit check, and it is them that you must access your report via.
5) States With Free Credit Report Laws
Additionally, there are several states with regulations that allow an extra chance to get a free report every year. These are Colorado, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, and the territory of Puerto Rico.
You can do this directly via the big three credit bureaus.
Furthermore, other states and territories have reduced fees for credit reports.
California mandates $8
Montana mandates $8.50
The Virgin Islands mandates $1
Connecticut mandates $5 for the first credit report each year and then $7.50 thereafter.
Minnesota mandates $3 for the first report each year, then $11.50.
Warning: Beware of scams and Trials
There are many sites out there that claim to offer free credit reports or a reduced price for accessing your report, but they will first ask for your credit card details. This is so they can sign you up for a subscription service of some kind. While this is not illegal and they will typically make it clear what you are signing up for, if you forget to cancel the subscription within 30 days you will be billed. There are many other better options for getting free access to your credit report.
So, there you have it! Follow the above steps and you will almost always be able to get free access to your credit report and keep on top of your credit score and data. Got any questions or know of other ways to get free access? Let us know in the comments below!