Checking your credit report can provide you with insights into how you appear “on paper” to potential lenders and creditors. Additionally, your credit report offers you a first look at the possibility of identity theft if you see fraudulent accounts.
Your credit score is the numeric representation of how lenders (and others) gauge your financial responsibility. The higher your score, the more responsible you appear to them – and the better interest rates you can receive.
So how do you get your free credit report and score online? Here’s how:
How to Get Your Free Credit Report
First of all, you should know that if you are rejected for a loan, or if you don’t get the best deal, or if some other “negative action” is taken as the result of the information in a credit report, you are entitled to a free report from the agency that provided the report. You must request the report in writing within 60 days of the negative action.
But you don’t have to wait for a negative action to get your free report. You are entitled, by law, to one free report once a year from each of the major credit-reporting bureaus. The federal government mandated that a special website to be created for consumers to get their annual free credit report – and that site is called AnnualCreditReport.com. You should visit there for your official free report.
That website will give you the opportunity to pull your report from each of the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. You can get all three at once, or you can space it out throughout the year, getting one from a different agency every four months. (Realize, though, that not all reports are identical, so one report might have something another report doesn’t.)
So that’s how to get your free credit report: just go to AnnualCreditReport.com. If for some reason you have used up your once per year free credit reports at that site, you can also try sites like Credit.com, Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, and Quizzle. These are for-profit sites that are legitimate (not scams) which provide some information for free to users who sign up. While these sites don’t give you your official credit report, they do provide some of the same information that is on your credit reports.
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How to Get Your Free Credit Score
So now you’ve got your credit report. But you’re still wondering “How do I get my free credit score?” Well, it’s little trickier to get your credit score for free. That’s because, while you are entitled to see the credit score if it’s used to deny you credit, or to justify a higher interest rate, your credit score doesn’t come with the same once-a-year guarantee offered for your credit report.
However, the same for-profit credit sites mentioned above will offer you a version of your credit score for free. For instance, if you use Credit Karma, you can see your TransRisk score from TransUnion, as well as get a peek at your VantageScore – which is the scoring system the three agencies came up with to compete with FICO.
Meanwhile, Credit.com, Credit Sesame and Quizzle all offer you a version of your Experian credit score. If you want your Equifax score for free, you will need to sign up for a free trial and then cancel before your credit card is charged.
One last warning: unless you want to sign up for a credit monitoring service that costs around $15 per month, stay away from those “free” sites like FreeCreditScore.com. If you go to those sites you’ll have to hand over your credit card number and sign up for a free trial that often turns into a monthly subscription of $15 unless you jump through several hoops to cancel your order within the first few days. You can get a score that is just as good that is truly free site without entering your credit card information, so for most people it’s just not worth it.
Unfortunately, your FICO score, as reported by the company that made credit scoring important in the first place, is really only available at myFICO.com, and it’s not free. If you do pay to see your FICO score, it might not be exactly what lenders see, so keep that in mind. Instead, you are offered your consumer score, and banks or others might use a slightly different algorithm or version of the FICO score to evaluate you. For most people, it’s not necessary to get the FICO score for that reason.
In the end, most people will be best served by going to AnnualCreditReport.com. And if you want to get a free credit score, or track your score to see whether it is improving, you can always use the sites mentioned above. Hopefully we’ve answered your question, “How do I get my free credit score and report?” Let us know in the comments below if you have further questions!