Guide to free credit reports

Everyone is entitled to a free annual credit report.

There are plenty of advertisements online and on TV touting free ways to get your credit report; just look a the 2008 commercial in which a young character claims his identity got stolen and now he sings bad songs at a seafood restaurant because he didn’t access his credit report.

Of course companies wouldn’t advertise so heavily if there wasn’t money in it for them and this is exactly why finding a free credit report can take some online digging. It is important to realize that the U.S. federal government mandates that all individuals who are U.S. Citizens are eligible for and entitled to one free copy of their credit report every 12 months. Free doesn’t make much money for the 3 credit reporting bureaus so they design complex and ‘in- depth’ reports, account monitoring, and fraud detection for monthly and yearly fees to everyone with any credit history.

All of these extras aren’t needed and many of the ‘services’ offered by credit bureaus can be done by any person who checks their bank accounts and credit card statements for unauthorized activity. In fact the main purpose of accessing one’s credit report is to see one’s credit score and check for unauthorized accounts opened in their name. These are the only two things you really need the credit report to view that you can’t monitor without a credit report, and with federal law requiring reports be made available free yearly; the companies that handle credit reports do offer free reports.

Free instant credit reports can be found by going to the website of any of the 3 credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You’ll have to go through a lot of ads and pages hawking ‘extra’ services, fraud detection, advanced reports, and detailed reports, but for your free government mandated credit report you’ll eventually be taken to a link that will give you instant access to your credit report.

For those with good credit who can get a credit card, some credit card issuers such as American Express offer access to one free credit report a year with no strings attached and more detailed reporting for free. If you have bad credit and can’t get a credit card that offers this financial perk, you are still entitled to a credit report once every 12 months and the 3 credit bureaus mentioned earlier are required to give you access to your credit score and basic credit history report.

Free credit reports online are the easiest and most secure way to view and see your FICO score, credit history, and listings of accounts such as bank loans, student loans, credit card accounts, and credit inquiries on your credit. Knowing your score and credit history yearly can help you get better deals on many things like loans and purchases and can give you a look at what banks, lenders, and even landlords and car dealers look at in your credit report before doing business with you.