How You Can Get Your Free Annual Credit Report and Monitor Your Credit
There was once a time when getting your credit report likely meant visiting a “free” site… and enrolling in a some paid program before you’d actually get to see your report. Thankfully those days are gone and you can now obtain a copy of your official credit reports directly from all three major credit bureaus on an annual basis by visiting the aptly-named AnnualCreditReport.com. Best of all, it seriously won’t cost you a dime.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to requesting your free credit reports on AnnualCreditReport.com as well as a look at some other free options for monitoring your credit all year long.
How to Get Your Free Credit Report with AnnualCreditReport.com
Check your URL
The first step in retrieving your free, official credit report is to ensure you land on the correct website: AnnualCreditReport.com. As of March 2019, the site looks like the screenshot on the left. Since variations on these terms or domain may take you to imitators, be sure to double check the address and confirm that your web browser shows that the site is secure before proceeding. You’ll see why this is so important as we move forward.
Provide your information
To request your report(s), you’ll first be asked to fill out a form. This includes providing basic data such as your name, birthday, and address along with more sensitive information like your Social Security number. Speaking of your address, if you’ve lived at your current home for less than two years, you’ll also be asked to provide the address of your prior residence.
Select your reports
Next you’ll get to select which reports you want to request. Remember: you’re entitled to obtain reports from all three bureaus — TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian — once per year. So you can either elect to get all three at once or request them at different times as you see fit. As the site notes, there may be different advantages to different strategies. For example, if you’re planning a large purchase you plan on financing, you may want to review all of your reports at once to look for errors ahead of time. Meanwhile, spreading them out over time may allow you to monitor for changes throughout the year (more on that later, though). Ultimately the choice is completely up to you.
Confirming your info
Depending on which bureau reports you select, you’ll be taken to another screen where you’ll first confirm your information. To verify your identity you’ll be asked a series of multiple choice questions regarding data in your report. This could include a variety of questions, but here a few examples:
- “Which of the following is the street number of your most recent previous address?”
- “Which of these last names have you used previously?”
- “Your credit file indicates you may have a bank card, opened in or around April 2016. Who is the credit provider for this account?”
One of the more interesting questions I’ve received asked for my astrological sign, so these really can vary. Heads ups: there may be times when the correct answer is “none of the above.” Also, If you’ve selected to obtain multiple reports, you’ll have to do similar quizzes for each bureau.
Downloading your report
After confirming your identity, you’ll be provided your credit report data. This includes payment history, inquires, various accounts, previous addresses, and more. While you can review this information on the page, it’s also a good idea to save a copy to your computer for further investigation. To do this, look for the “Save as PDF” link near the top of the page. You have an option to print a copy as well.
Once you’re finished saving and reviewing your report, you can move onto your next report by hitting the button at the top of the screen. This will actually return you to AnnualCreditReport.com and then allow you to move onto your next requested report.
As you view your individual reports, you may encounter invitations to view your credit score or sign-up for other products such as ID monitoring. Be aware that these products may not be free or will at least require you to sign-up for them. These are also completely optional and shouldn’t impact your ability to view the credit report data you’re entitled to.
Another option you may see displayed on your reports is the right to dispute. If you find an error, clicking this button should walk you through the required steps toward getting it corrected. Once again these disputes are per bureau, so you may need to file multiple reports to ensure that errors aren’t impacting your creditworthiness unfairly.
Other Free Credit Monitoring Options
While AnnualCreditReport.com is a great source for official info on an annual basis, it’s also a smart idea to keep up with your credit year-round. Luckily there are now several free credit monitoring sites you can utilize to help you do that. By providing you educational credit scores — calculated using the VantageScore 3.0 model as opposed to FICO — these various sites will help give you a better idea of where your credit stands and how you can improve it.
As a general note, to sign-up to these services, you’ll need to ensure that you’re credit reports aren’t frozen. However, once you’re on board, you should be able to refreeze without interrupting future updates. It should also be mentioned that each of these options monetizes by offering ads for credit cards and other products, so keep that in mind when exploring them for yourselves.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at three popular free credit monitoring sites and what each has to offer:
Easily the most well-known free credit monitoring site these days is Credit Karma. As it turns out, that’s for good reason as it’s also one of the best. In additon to offering education credit scores and data from your credit report, Credit Karma’s features include a tool that will help you find unclaimed property, was well as a completely free tax prep service.
Getting back to what they offer in terms of credit monitoring, the site allows you to view scores from both Equifax and TransUnion. Not only can you see how those scores measure up but can also dive into the specifics and get tips on where you can improve. If you’re looking to keep up with your credit in between annual reports, Credit Karma is a great place to start.
Another site that’s been gaining popularity is Credit Sesame. While many of these credit monitoring sites offer similar features, Dyer News contributor Kyle Burbank notes that Credit Sesame has one of the best options for alerts, as you can get notifications when your score breaks above or below a certain threshold. Another unique aspect of the site is the free $50,000 in identity theft insurance they include just for signing up.
In terms of downsides, Credit Sesame only includes a score from TransUnion as opposed to the two scores featured on Credit Karma. Also of note that is that, while Credit Sesame will provide you with insights for raising your credit scores, in-depth credit report data is only available with one of their paid subscriptions. Nevertheless, with more helpful tips and free ID theft insurance, there’s good reason to add Credit Sesame to the mix along with the other services on the list.
On the surface, WalletHub might not seem that much different from the other credit monitoring sites on the list. However, our contributor Kyle says that the site may actually be his favorite to use overall. Part of the reason for that is WalletHub’s sleek interface, useful data graphs, and a wealth of resources spanning numerous personal finance products, including insurance, loans, and much more. He also notes that, of all three free credit sites he uses, WalletHub was the only one to send him notifications when his credit freezes went into effect or when his credit limit was increased on one of his cards.
Unlike Credit Sesame, WalletHub does provide data from your credit report for free. Additionally this info can either be viewed in standard form or as a “Credit Timeline,” which highlights certain changes. Unfortunately, once again, WalletHub only offers one score (TransUnion) instead of two. Still, it may be worth checking out this alternative and decide which free tool you personally prefer.
From correcting errors to preventing fraud, there are several reasons why you should actively monitor your credit. While AnnualCreditReport.com is an essential resource for obtaining official credit report information on a yearly basis, other free services such as Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, and WalletHub can help fill the gaps in between. With these four free sites, you can help ensure that your credit is headed in the right direction.