What is a credit report?
Most people already know what a credit report is, but let’s go over the basics real quick, just in case.
Credit reports are sometimes referred to as “credit files” or “credit history.” They are compiled by the three major credit reporting agencies, aka credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
What kind of information is on my credit report?
Credit reports include information such as your name, social security number, current and previous addresses, current and former employers, credit card and loan payments, credit inquiries, collection accounts, and public records such as bankruptcies, judgments, foreclosures, and tax liens.
Each account listed on your credit reports will show the date the account was established, your payment history, credit limit, and the type of account (mortgage, installment, revolving, collection), etc.
How do I get my free annual credit report?
By federal law, under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). In addition, several states offer an additional free credit report per year, including:
- New Jersey
Your free annual credit reports contain the same account information found on a paid credit report: your open and closed financial accounts, and your payment history for each. You’ll generally find payment history for loans, credit cards, and revolving lines of credit. You may also see rental payments if you rent an apartment.
How do I order my free credit reports?
If you are getting your free annual credit reports, you can order them online through AnnualCreditReport.com.
This website will let you order all three of your free credit reports at once, with no obligations and no hidden fees. You may have to provide some personal information to confirm your identity before ordering, but you will not be charged if you use this site.
Please note that if you use these free credit reports to file a dispute with a credit bureau, they have 45 days to investigate your dispute instead of the typical 30-day timeframe.
Other ways to get a free credit report:
The free annual credit report is available to everyone in the United States. However, in addition to that, you can also get a free copy of your credit report directly from a credit reporting company if you’ve been denied credit.
You have 60 days from the time you are notified of the denial to request your credit report. Your request must also be with the credit reporting agency you used to check your credit.
If you are ordering a free state report, or you are getting a free credit report due to any of the other factors we’ve talked about, you’ll need to contact the nationwide credit reporting agencies directly. Equifax and TransUnion make it easy to order these free credit reports online but to get your free Experian credit report, you may need to call.
Here is the contact information for each credit bureau:
- Free Experian Credit Report – call (866) 200-6020 to confirm eligibility and get your credit report by mail or use this link.
- Free Equifax Credit Report – call (877) 322-8228 and order online through this link.
- Free TransUnion Credit Report – call (800) 813-5604 and order online through this link.
Remember: Keep track of when you order your credit reports and from which bureau(s) so that you know when you’ll be eligible to order your next credit report for free.
Can I get a free credit score too?
Unfortunately, federal law does not mandate that credit bureaus give you a free credit score with your free credit reports. However, Lexington Law Firm offers a free FICO credit score and a free credit repair consultation. You can get that by visiting their site or calling 1 (800) 220-0084.
There are also several credit card companies that offer free credit reports.
You can often order your credit score alongside your free credit report for an additional fee from the credit reporting agencies. However, these credit scores are considered FAKOs as they are not real FICO credit scores (the credit scores that lenders use).
While VantageScore (the credit score created by the credit reporting agencies to compete with Fair Isaac) is used by some businesses and institutions, the vast majority still rely on FICO scores to make credit decisions. So before you pay for any credit score, make sure that it will be useful to you.
If you want to monitor your credit reports and credit scores monthly, you might want to consider a credit monitoring service.
Can I get more than one free credit report per year?
If you’ve already ordered your legally-mandated free credit reports for the year and you don’t live in a state where you are entitled to an additional free report, there are still several situations that qualify you for an additional free credit report:
Negative actions as a result of your credit report such as:
- Being denied for credit or a loan
- Being denied for insurance
- Being passed over for employment
- Being denied a government license or benefit, or having an adverse action for either of these
- Being denied or having an unfavorable action happening on another account (i.e. interest rates raised on your credit accounts, being denied a credit line increase, etc.)
Hardships that make it difficult to maintain positive credit such as:
- You are currently unemployed and are planning to seek employment within the next 60 days
- You are receiving or have recently received public welfare assistance
- You believe that your credit file may be inaccurate due to fraud or identity theft
How can I dispute inaccurate information on my credit report?
If you find inaccurate or “questionable” information on your credit report, you can dispute the errors with the credit bureaus. We also offer free credit repair letters, or if you need help getting rid of negative items on your credit reports, you can hire a credit repair service.