How to get your credit report for free

November 14, 2009 | 199 Comments

bar_graphs_300x250_a01[1]Many people wonder -what’s the first thing I should do before I try to buy my first home? Obtaining your credit report is a great place to start! Be sure to look at each of your reports every year. It’s simple, it’s free and it’s very important. Old or inaccurate information could cost you a job, an apartment or a lot of money when you borrow. Some people don’t know that all Americans are entitled to free credit reports every year from each of the three major credit bureaus. The credit reports used to cost as much as $9.50 each. The three major credit-reporting agencies, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian, are each required to provide consumers, upon request, a free copy of their credit report once every 12 months. The reports will not be sent automatically.

Each consumer must request reports one of these three ways:

  1. Go to, which is the only authorized source for consumers to access their annual credit report online for free.
  2. Call (877) 322-8228.
  3. Complete the form on the back of the Annual Credit Report Request brochure, and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. The brochure, which can be ordered or printed, is available from the Federal Trade Commission. 

A credit report is simply a rundown of your payment history, listing your accounts, balances and your payment behavior for each. It is not a credit score, or FICO, the three-digit gauge of your creditworthiness used by lenders, employers and insurers. But credit scores do use the information on your credit reports in their calculations, so it’s important to spot and correct inaccuracies as quickly as possible. 

You can order all three credit reports at one time, or at different times throughout the year. It’s your choice. But be sure to order from the centralized agency. If you go directly to the credit-reporting agencies, you will be charged unless you fit other criteria for a free report.

Watch for typos in your name and address.  You can access your information online at, but if you don’t get the Web address exactly right or if you search for terms such as “free credit report,” you could get sucked in and scammed by one of the many credit report “impostors” currently inhabiting cyber-world. The trio of reporting agencies established a single authorized Web source for customers to access the information for free: That is the only federally mandated source for free, no-strings-attached credit reports. The rest of the Internet Web sites advertising “free” reports — more than 100 at last count — are in fact impostors whose real agenda is to steer unsuspecting consumers into a for-profit marketing enterprise, according to a World Privacy Forum in-depth investigation and report. Dozens of the confusing sites are operated by Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, the big three bureaus who together run the government-mandated and authorized free-report site.



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