If you want to see (for free) what is on your credit report, the only sure way to get a free report with no strings attached is to request your report from the Website AnnualCreditReport.com. As the site says, it is “the official site to get your free annual credit reports. This right is guaranteed by Federal law.”
You may be able to get a free credit report elsewhere, but often it is bundled as part of some sort of credit scoring package that you have to pay for. No need to do that. Just use AnnualCreditReport.com.
While the site’s name Annual Credit Report suggests you can only get one free credit report per year, the truth is that you can get one free credit report per year per credit bureau. That means you can actually stagger your requests throughout the year in order to check your report from one of the major reporting agencies for free three times per year.
For example, you could get a free report in January from Equifax, then request a free report from TransUnion in May, then request a free report from Experian in September. Each of these agencies will have slightly different information about you, but seeing each report once per year will easily be enough to get a clear picture of what credit accounts you have open — and if there are any errors on these reports.
What’s the difference between a credit report and a credit score?
Your credit report is pretty dry stuff. It’s just a listing of all your open and closed credit accounts, including credit card, mortgage, auto loan, and possibly other accounts. It also shows if you’ve been making your payments on those accounts. When you get the free report, you really just want to check to see if everything seems correct. If something is incorrect, you can contact the agency that gave you the report to get it fixed.
Because the credit report is very tedious to look at, the credit score was devised by a company called Fair Isaac, better known as FICO. The credit score essentially takes all of that information on the credit report and uses it as the basis for giving you a “score” based on your history. If you’ve paid your bills on time for a good long stretch, and if you don’t carry a ton of debt, your score will probably be high. (There are other factors that go in to your credit score as well.)
Lenders use these credit scores to get a quick idea of how trustworthy you might be when it comes to credit. The higher your score, the more likely it is that you’ll get approved for a new loan that you may be seeking.
You do not have a right to a free credit score in the way that you have a right to a free credit report. However, there are multiple ways to get free credit scores with no strings attached. You can see a list of free credit score options at our sister site, Proud Money.