Do you know how to check your credit for free? This step-by-step guide explains exactly how you can obtain a free annual credit report. Image source: Getty Images.
Checking your credit is important. You want to keep tabs on your credit report so you can catch mistakes if inaccurate information finds its way onto your record. You can also track your debt repayment efforts and can make sure you aren't a victim of identity theft by watching for accounts you don't recognize or inquiries from creditors when you didn't apply for a loan.
Unfortunately, many people don't check their credit at all, or do so rarely. This is a major mistake, especially when checking your credit is both free and easy since every American is entitled to a free annual credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus.
Not sure how to pull your free annual credit report? This guide will help you to understand exactly how to pull a free annual credit report so you can check your credit without incurring any costs.
The first step to pulling a free annual credit report is to visit the website that allows you to get your report at no cost. The website is AnnualCreditReport.com. Be careful not to type in similar phrasing or to accidentally end up at a different website.
If you don't type the web address exactly as AnnualCreditReport.com, you will end up at a website that offers you a credit report -- but ends up asking you to pay for it.
AnnualCreditReport.com is the only legitimate website where you can pull your official credit report without incurring costs.
Click on "Request your free credit reports"
Once you're on the correct website, you'll see a button on the main page that says "Request your free credit reports." It's a red button you can click on, and it will allow you to request your reports from each of the three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
These three credit reporting agencies all collect data from your lenders and from public records and other sources to compile a dossier of information on you, your spending habits, and your repayment history.
While the information is typically the same on all three reports, you may find some variation if a service provider or lender you're doing business with doesn't report to all three bureaus.
Complete a form to request one or more of your credit reports
After you've clicked the red button on the AnnualCreditReport.com homepage that says "Request your free credit reports," you'll be taken to another webpage that guides you through the three steps in the process. As this page explains, the steps include:
- Fill out a form
- Pick the reports you want
- Request and review your reports online
You'll once again need to click the red button that says "Request your credit reports" to move on to the next phase in the process.
Complete your form
Next, you'll be taken to a screen where you must provide the information necessary to pull up your credit report. This includes:
- Your first name
- Your middle initial
- Your last name
- A suffix if applicable (such as jr. or sr.)
- Your birthdate
- Your Social Security number
- Your current U.S. address
- Whether you've lived at your address for at least two years
- Your past U.S. address if you haven't lived at your current location for two or more years
Click "Submit" after providing the requested information.
Pick which reports you want
You have the option to request one, two, or three reports. You can request your report from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. However, you're entitled to a free copy of each report only one time per year, so you can't request a report from a credit bureau you've received one from within the past year.
While you could order all three reports at once to look for discrepancies and make sure none of the reports contains inaccurate information, that would mean you couldn't check your reports at AnnualCreditReport.com again for another year.
So, for many people, a better option is to request one report at a time and to request a report every four months. That way, you can space out the checks you're doing on your credit reports -- which should hopefully help you to catch problems such as identity theft more quickly.
Whatever you decide, check the box next to the report you want and then click "Submit."
Verify your identity
Once you've submitted your request for a particular report, you'll be taken to a screen where you must confirm your identity. You'll be asked several questions and have a limited amount of time in which to answer them. For example, some of the questions you may be asked include:
- Your height on your driver's license
- The monthly payment on a particular account you have open
- A current or prior employer
Provided you answer your questions correctly, your report will show up on the next screen.
Review your report
Once you've received the report you requested, look it over carefully to make sure the information is accurate and to identify any possible problems, such as accounts you didn't open or aliases or addresses that aren't actually yours.
You'll see details about your addresses; your employment; any spouses or co-applicants for credit; phone numbers you have used; and accounts you have open.
Be sure to check everything over and if you find problems, you'll need to go through the process of submitting a dispute with the credit reporting agency. You can find out here how to submit a dispute to the three main agencies:
There are plenty of ways to view your credit report
Visiting AnnualCreditReport.com several times annually to pull your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion is a smart choice to make sure you're keeping tabs on your credit.
However, there may also be additional ways to get your credit information for free. For example, money management sites such as Mint allow you to check your credit, and your credit card company may also offer you the option to monitor your report and credit score. You will also be entitled to a copy of your credit report if you're denied a loan or face any other adverse action.
With so many ways to get your credit score or report for free, there is no reason to ever pay to get your credit information. Avoid sites that purport to offer no-cost reports and then charge you, and stick with reliable options such as AnnualCreditReport.com.
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