Starting now through April 2021, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion are offering consumers free access to our credit reports — Every. Single. Week. You can access your free reports at AnnualCreditReport.com.
In pre-pandemic times, free credit file access was limited to one per year from each of the three major credit bureaus, as mandated by federal law. Pulling a report once every three months provided us a quarterly window into what lenders and other entities were saying about us. Now the floodgates of credit information have been flung wide open. If you use your all-access pass to pull three reports every week, and you’ll have more than 150 files of riveting bedtime reading for the next year. And yes, that might overkill, but it’s so nice to know that we can access this information whenever we want it.
How to get your free credit report
If you’ve gone through this process before, it’s going to feel very familiar. The only thing that has changed is the frequency with which you can pull your credit files free of charge.
- Go to AnnualCreditReport.com and click on the “Request your free credit reports” button at the top of the page.
- Fill out a form to request your report. You’ll provide your name, current address, previous address (if you’ve lived at your current residence for less than two years) and Social Security number.
- Indicate which credit report you want (Equifax, Experian or TransUnion) or all three in one visit.
- Answer some questions to verify your identity. You’ll repeat this step for each credit report, and the questions will be different (and in my experience, perhaps a little odd).
- Print your report, save it as a PDF, or view it online. Note: Online viewing requires lots of scrolling. Also, the PDF option is only available from Equifax and TransUnion.
- Click “Get your next report or finish” at the top of the page. You can review multiple credit reports in one session, or spread the fun across several days of the week and come back to pull your credit report from a different bureau.
Be careful not to inadvertently sign up for a for-pay credit monitoring product or credit score — offers will be made on the page, so just close out of them if they pop up. But don’t close your browser window completely, as it will cause you to lose access to that week’s free report. (In other words, finish up your business before navigating back to Twitter.)
What’s not included: A free credit score
The information in the credit reports you pull from AnnualCreditReport.com will NOT include your credit score. (They’re not legally required to offer it.) So brace yourself for the hard sell.
Selling credit score access and other for-pay services to individual consumers is baked into the free credit score model. Take my experience for example: When I accessed my free report from TransUnion, I was pitched a $24.95 (plus tax) per month credit monitoring subscription service. Equifax offered to send me to CreditKarma for a free credit score (which was actually helpful), pay $7.95 for my VantageScore (which is also the free score CreditKarma offers), or sign up for their VantageScore credit watch program. Experian gave me the opportunity to see my FICO scores based on credit information from all three bureaus with a free seven-day trial of its monitoring service, Experian CreditWorks. After the trial, membership costs $14.99 a month.
Of course if you’re interested in services like these, by all means, sign up — just don’t feel like you have to. These days, free credit score access is offered by many banks and credit unions, lenders, credit card companies and, as Equifax points out, at websites like CreditKarma.
What to do with all that credit info
Getting a free weekly credit report from all three bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — may at first seem like overkill. But, actually, this is an ideal time to take them up on their offer, at least every month. Consider the following:
- Lenders and other service providers have become more forgiving about late payments, collections and forbearance. You want to make sure the information they report is accurately reflected in your credit files.
- Scammers are also on the prowl, using the coronavirus crisis for cover in schemes to gain access to your credit card and other personal information that puts you at risk for fraud or identity theft.
- In “normal times” we advise practicing good credit hygiene in the months leading up to any major credit-related action. Free weekly credit reports will help you know where you stand if you’re applying for a mortgage, refinancing, or getting a car loan or college loan in the near future.
Wondering what to look for on your report? This checklist from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a good guide to what to look for as you scour those PDFs. If you spot any funny business, here’s how to dispute an error on your credit report.
Take this opportunity to catch errors quickly before they do permanent damage to your credit score.
More on HerMoney:
- Your Many Credit Scores and What They Mean to You
- 4 Easy Hacks to Increase Your Credit Score
- Coronavirus Advice: The Dos and Don’ts of Credit Right Now
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