Free Credit reports are vital element for consumers who want to maintain their excellent credit history. Credit reports are detailed reports of credit accounts, payment history, credit limits, available credit, and so forth. Any information related to past and present credit can be found on the credit report. Many people do not know it but customers can receive one free credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies each year. Getting free credit reports help consumers know what is on their credit report so that they can understand how credit works. Remember that the FICO breakdown is payment history – 35%, amount owed – 30%, credit history – 15%, credit mix – 10%, and new credit 10%. Consumes should consider this information when viewing their credit reports.
How to Get a Free Credit Report Online
Consumers have 3 ways to get their free credit report. They can order their credit report by telephone, online, or mail. The credit agencies make it extremely easy to receive an annual credit report from each of the credit agencies. Consumers should not contact the credit agencies directly. The free credit report program is available to consumers under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT) and Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The following are the three ways that consumers can obtain their free credit report:
- Call 1-877-322-8228,
- Visit www.annualcreditreport.com, or
- Print and complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form at www.ftc.gov/credit.com and mail it directly to: Annual Credit Report Request Services, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
Remember that the above are the only ways to receive a free credit report. Consumers should not contact Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion for a free credit report. Consumers can order all three reports at once, or they can order them separately. Consumers can only order one credit report per agency once per calendar year through this program.
Consumers who order their free credit reports may need to provide their social security number, name, date of birth, and address to obtain the credit reports. Previous addresses may be required for consumers who have moved in the past two years. Each credit agency may ask individual to answer specific questions to protect the security of the personal information in the files. For example, they may ask a consumer to tell what amount was paid on the last car payment or credit card bill. Information may vary by credit agency so each agency may ask different questions.
Consumers should beware of companies that claim to offer free credit reports. These companies are not affiliated with the free annual credit report program that is mandated by law. Other programs may offer a free trial that converts to a paid credit monitoring service after the short trial. Some sites even use the words “free credit report” in the subject line of emails. If these companies ask for personal information or send emails that are supposed to be from one of the three credit agencies or annualcreditreport.com, it is likely a scam. Consumers should forward these emails to the FTC at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If consumers need another credit report within a year, they will have to pay up to $10.50 per copy. They can purchase their copies using the following contact information:
- Equifax:1-800-685-1111; equifax.com
- TransUnion: 1-800-916-8800; transunion.com
- Experian: 1-888-397-3742; experian.com
Important Tips When Getting a Free Credit Report
- Each credit report may contain different information. Companies sometime report payment history and other credit related information differently.
- Credit reports sometime contain inaccurate information. Contact the credit agencies if inaccuracies are on the credit reports. They generally investigate the issues within 30 days.
- Credit agencies can keep negative information on credit reports for 7 – 10 years. Bankruptcies can remain on the credit reports for 10 years, and other negative information can remain for 7 years.
- Reports may take up to 15 days to process. Consumers should expect their free credit reports to be processed and mailed within 15 days.
- Consumers may qualify for additional free credit reports in certain situations. Those on welfare, victims of identity theft, or those who find inaccuracies on their credit reports may receive additional free credit reports. Additionally, those denied credit, employment, and insurance may qualify for a free credit report within 60 days of receiving notice of denial. Unemployed people applying for jobs within 60 days may also receive additional credit reports.
Consumers should not miss their opportunity to receive free credit reports each year. The program is free so there is nothing to lose. It is important to know what information is reported to credit agencies to determine if the information on the reports is correct.