Instructions for getting your free annual credit report.
Per federal law, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit bureau from each of the three leading credit reporting agencies once a year. This report comes in addition to any copies you may receive through your bank or other methods. It is important to remember that each credit agency (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) collect and present their data slightly differently. You never know which of the three will be used to decision a future credit evaluation. For this reason you should get copies of all three bureaus whenever possible.
Benefits of regularly viewing your credit report:
• You can identify and correct inaccurate reporting.
• You can identify and report credit fraud.
• You can identify possible identity theft.
• You can see how banks, employers, and other groups will view your credit history.
• You can make informed decisions regarding how financial transactions, debt, and bills will affect your credit.
To request your free credit report go to:
There are many companies and websites that offer credit bureau services—usually in conjunction with a fee or product trial. Annualcreditreport.com is the only source designated by federal law for you to get your free yearly credit report; so be sure to use this resource regardless of what advertisements may tell you.
Once there, you will need:
• Your social security number.
• Your Date of birth (month, day, year.)
• Your full legal name including middle initial(s).
• Your most recent mailing address (usually a physical street address and not a P.O. Box.)
• An active printer so you can make physical copies of your bureaus
*The site asks several in-depth questions about your residential and financial history in order to authenticate your identity. As such, it helps if you have your last ten years worth of addresses, financial institutions you have done business with, and telephone numbers available. You will be asked to verify a random sample of these items as well as processing a captia numerical challenge (audio challenges are available as well.)
Once you have completed the application, view and print all three of your credit bureau profiles. The website does an excellent job of summarizing the data but provides guides for understanding the material for those who have questions. Be sure to note any inconsistencies—accounts you don’t recognize, delinquent debts that have been paid, bills reporting a balance that were previously paid off…etc.
If you find an item on a report that you feel should be corrected, you can challenge the report through links on the annual credit report website. I recommend contacting the reporting institution (bank, lender, collection agency) to request clarification and correction as well. It is up to you to identify and report fraud and inaccuracies on your credit report.
You will be offered the chance to purchase a view of your current credit score also called your FICO score. This refers to a metric derived from your available credit, current credit usage, payment history, how you compare to other borrowers in the same general category, and a variety of other criteria. The Fair Isaac Corporation uses this information to estimate how risky a potential credit customer you are. Scores range from 300 to 850. In general, a score less than 600 is viewed as very risky, a score of 650 or more is moderately risky, a score of 750 or more is very good, and a score of 800 or more is near perfect. This number is only an abstraction of your credit report at a given time and therefore may not present a completely accurate picture of your credit worthiness. As such, lenders have their own formulas and processes for incorporating this metric into their decisions. For more on credit reports and FICO scores see:
This communication is intended for educational purposes only.
It does not constitute financial advice or a contractual obligation on the author’s part. People wanting more information should seek advice from a certified financial professional.