The 6 Best Free Credit Reports Of 2021
- Best for Credit Monitoring:
- Best for Single Bureau Access:
- Best for Improving Credit:
- Best for Daily Updates: WalletHub
In 2003, a Federal law passed granting every consumer the right to a free report from all credit reporting agencies each year. AnnualCreditReport.com is the centralized site that allows every consumer to access their free credit report granted by Federal law.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau confirms that AnnualCreditReport.com is the official website that allows you to access each of your credit reports from all three of the major credit bureaus Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion at no cost. You can obtain one free credit report every 12 months through AnnualCreditReport.com, without signing up, creating an account, or entering your credit card information. Alternatively, you can call 1-877-322-8228 to order your legally free credit report.
Credit reports are available as a PDF download or you can request to have your credit reports mailed to you. The downside is that you receive your full credit report, which hasnt been formatted for user-friendliness. Depending on the length of your credit history and the number of accounts youve had, your credit reports can be dozens of pages each. You wont receive a credit score with your credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com.
Negative Information In A Credit Report
Negative information in a can include public records–tax liens, judgments, bankruptcies–that provide insight into your financial status and obligations. A credit reporting company generally can report most negative information for seven years.
Information about a lawsuit or a judgment against you can be reported for seven years or until the statute of limitations runs out, whichever is longer. Bankruptcies can be kept on your report for up to 10 years, and unpaid tax liens for 15 years.
How To Get Your Free Credit Reports Directly From The Credit Bureaus
If youd rather get your free reports directly from the credit bureaus themselves, thats possible in two of the three cases. TransUnion doesnt offer a free credit report online.
To get your free credit report from Equifax, you must first sign up for the myEquifax program. As a member of myEquifax, you can get access to your Equifax credit report twice per year at no charge.
Beware, though, as Equifax may try to push you toward signing up for one of its paid products. It is not necessary to do this in order to get your free report.
You can sign up to get your free Experian credit report here. One nice thing about Experians offering is that you can access your credit report for free every 30 days after you sign up. This could be useful if youre in the process of trying to buy a house or car and want to keep close tabs on your report.
Again, beware of signing up for paid products with Experian.
Unfortunately, TransUnion does not currently allow you to access your free credit report online directly through its website. Instead, the company refers you to AnnualCreditReport.com and then tries to sell you its credit monitoring product for $24.95 a month. Dont do it! Heres why money expert Clark Howard says you should never pay for credit monitoring.
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Free Credit Scores From Experian
The largest credit reference agency offers new customers a free 30-day trial of its , which gives you access to your credit report, score, and email alerts about any changes on your file.
After the trial ends, it will cost you £14.99 a month.
You can access your Experian credit score through a free Experian account. This is designed to help people shop around to see how they can save money by comparing credit deals based on their financial profile.
Once you’ve signed up, your score will remain free to access, but unlike the paid-for CreditExpert service, you won’t be able to see your credit report.
To be able to access both your Experian credit report and score free forever, you can sign up to the Money Saving Expert Credit Club.
You can also see how likely you are to be accepted for the best rates on cards and loans and work out how much you can afford to borrow.
Unlike CreditExpert, you won’t receive alerts about any changes to your report.
Get Your Credit Score
A lender will use your credit score to determine if they will lend you money and how much interest they will charge you to borrow it. Your credit score is a number calculated from the information in your credit report. It shows the risk you represent to a lender compared to other consumers.
Knowing your credit score before a major purchase, such as a car or a home, may help you to negotiate lower interest rates.
You usually need to pay a fee when you order your credit score online from the two credit bureaus.
Some companies offer to provide your credit score for free. Others may ask you to sign up for a paid service to see your score.
Always check to see if a website is secured before providing any of your personal information. A secured website will start with https instead of http.
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How To Get Your Weekly Free Credit Report
Heres how to access your free credit report every week through April 2021:
- Fill out the form, which asks for your personal information
- Confirm your identity with each credit bureau
- After verification, youll be forwarded to your credit reports
Remember, if you notice a discrepancy or see something that doesnt look right, you can dispute your credit report.
Whats A Utilization Ratio Or Debt
According to Equifax, your debt-to-credit ratio, also known as your utilization ratio, is the amount of your debt compared to your credit limit.5 Your debt-to-credit ratio is important because if your ratio is high, it can indicate that youre a higher-risk borrower.5 Thats because lenders see borrowers who use a lot of their available credit as a greater risk.5
For example, imagine you have a couple of credit cards and a line of credit with a total debt of $14,000 and a combined limit of $20,000. Your debt-to-credit ratio would be 70%.
According to the Government of Canada, a ratio of 35% or below on credit cards, loans and lines of credit is recommended.3
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Best For Improving Credit: Creditwise
You can check your TransUnion credit report and credit score through CreditWise, a credit report and credit score tool from Capital One. Credit Wise is available for free, even for those who arent Capital One customers. Sign up is simple and easy. You wont have to enter any credit card information, theres no trial subscription to cancel, and your credit information is updated weekly. You can access Credit Wise online or use the mobile app to keep up with your credit score.
Why Its So Important To Check Your Credit Report Periodically
Its important to check your credit reports periodically to make sure everything is accurate and that there are no mistakes. Credit bureaus often make errors, so you want to make sure they have everything right.
Your credit reports are also the best way to check for any unauthorized financial activity. You may not even realize someone has gotten their hands on your information until you find an unauthorized bill or account in your name on your credit report.
Identity theft and other mistakes can really throw your financial life into disarray, so its crucial that you keep up with your reports.
Your credit reports include all the details on your credit accounts, both current and closed. The reports track payments and other information for every loan, credit card and any other line of credit you have.
Your credit score, on the other hand, is a number based on your credit history and activity.
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Most Versatile: Identity Guard
The parent company of Identity Guard has served over 47 million customers over more than 20 years in business. The credit monitoring keeps a close eye on your credit files from all three of the major credit bureaus. You can choose between the Value, Total, and Ultra Plans either for yourself or your family. Plans include $1 million of identity theft insurance, a U.S.-based case manager to work with you if your identity is stolen, a mobile application to access your membership information, alerts when your personal information is detected on the Dark Web, monthly credit score, three-bureau credit monitoring, and account takeover alerts.
Plans range from $13.33 to $20 for individual and $20 to $26.67 for family protection. If you decide not to keep your subscription, make sure you cancel before the trial ends to avoid being charged. TheBalance.com readers receive a 20% discount.
Place A Credit Freeze
Contact each credit reporting agency to place a freeze on your credit report. Each agency accepts freeze requests online, by phone, or by postal mail.
PO Box 26Pittsburgh, PA 15230-0026
Your credit freeze will go into effect the next business day if you place it online or by phone. If you place the freeze by postal mail, it will be in effect three business days after the credit agency receives your request. A credit freeze does not expire. Unless you lift the credit freeze, it stays in effect.
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Check Your Credit Report From Each Bureau
Free credit reporting services provide information from a single credit bureau. Remember that there are still two other reports you absolutely have to check out. Its possible the information across all three reports could be slightly different.
Most importantly, the credit report youre seeing could be squeaky clean while the one from the other bureaus includes inaccurate or outdated information. These errors could potentially affect your credit health. Its of utmost importance to compare the information across all three reports. Anything that shouldn’t be there can and must be removed.
Keep in mind, though, that information won’t be removed if you can’t provide enough evidence to the bureaus of its inaccuracy.
How Credit Card Interest Works
When you borrow money from a bank, you usually have to pay interest, which is the cost to you of using the bank’s money. Credit cards are unusual in that there is a way to avoid interest entirely. Most cards offer a “grace period”: If you pay your balance in full on each statement â meaning you don’t roll over any debt from one month to the next â you won’t be charged interest. If you carry debt, though, you’ll be charged interest. Interest works like this:
Your card issuer sets your interest rate. In general, the better your credit, the more likely you are to qualify for lower rates, but credit card interest rates tend to be significantly higher than rates on other consumer debt.
Your interest rate is listed on your credit card statement. It’s expressed as an annual rate, but in most cases it is charged on a daily basis. So if your interest rate is 17.5% a year, it’s actually charged at about 0.048% per day.
When your billing cycle ends, your issuer calculates how much interest you owe. Your interest charge is based on your daily balances and your daily rate.
The interest charge is included in your next month’s minimum payment. Credit card interest generally does not compound â meaning, it does not get added into your balance. You have to pay your full interest cost each month. Read more about minimum payments.
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How To Get Your Annual Credit Reports From The Major Credit Bureaus
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Federal law gives you free access to your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Using the government-mandated AnnualCreditReport.com website is the quickest way to get them, but you can also request them by phone or mail. Until April 20, 2022, those reports which had been limited to once a year are available weekly to help consumers manage their finances.
Your credit reports are a detailed record of your past use of credit but they do not include your credit score. NerdWallet offers a free credit score and report, updated weekly using TransUnion data. Checking your score does not damage your credit.
Heres how to use AnnualCreditReport.com.
What Is A Credit Report How Can It Help Me Monitor My Credit
Your credit report shows information about you and your history with credit. It includes your accounts, payment history and sometimes negative marks such as collections, if you have them. That information has a powerful impact on your finances and your credit score so its important to be sure the data is correct and up to date. You can dispute errors and ask for them to be removed by the credit bureau or creditor responsible for the data. Checking your credit report also helps you watch for signs of identity theft or fraud. To help you stay on top of things, NerdWallet will alert you to changes on your TransUnion free credit report so you can monitor your credit efficiently.
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Choosing A Credit Card
If you’re a beginner to credit cards, see our step-by-step guide to choosing a credit card. It starts by helping you figure out what cards you can qualify for, then walks you through deciding what kind of card best fits your needs. The process in short:
Check your credit. The higher your credit score, the more likely you are to qualify for the best cards. NerdWallet offers free access to credit scores.
Narrow your choices. If you want a rewards card, do you prefer cash back or points, and how much effort are you willing to put into managing your rewards? If you’re looking to save money on interest, do you need a 0% introductory period, or a low ongoing rate? Do you need to do a balance transfer? Are you a student or a business owner who could benefit from a specialized card?
Apply for a card that gives you the best overall value.
Other Places To Check Your Credit Score
Although other scores arent used as often by lenders, they are still useful for tracking changes to your credit and are offered for free.
If you dont have a credit card or other product that provides free access to your score, it doesnt hurt to track one of the other scores, even though it isnt a FICO score.
You can also use these scores to check if you are making progress on your credit, and if there is a major decline or suspicious activity on your credit report, you can catch it right away. Then, you can at least investigate the activity and fix any issues.
Some of the other credit scores you might want to keep an eye on include the following:
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What Is A Fico Score
Youve probably heard of FICO, but did you know it goes back as far as 1989? At that time, it was referred to as Fair, Isaac, and company.
The FICO score is based on the information in your credit files, provided by the three national credit bureaus. This score is designed to take into account various elements of your financial history.
No one really knows the exact formula for calculating your FICO score, but there are certain factors that we know impact your score.
Discover Identity Theft Protection
For $15 per month, Discovers Identity Theft Protection service offers credit monitoring from all three bureaus, alerts you if a bank account opens in your name, scans thousands of sites on the dark web for your personal information and notifies you of significant credit balance changes greater than $5,000 and credit limit changes greater than $100 reported to Experian. As its name suggests, the service offers identity theft insurance up to $1 million covering legal expenses, stolen funds and lost wages. Child Identity Protection, which monitors fraudulent use of your childs personal information and social security number on the dark web, can include up to 10 children at no additional cost.
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Why Your Free Credit Scores From Equifax And Transunion May Be Different
You may think that your VantageScore 3.0 credit scores from Equifax and TransUnion should be the same, but thats not always the case.
Remember, VantageScore 3.0 is ultimately just a scoring model. The three-digit number it produces depends largely on the information that lenders report to each credit bureau.
When credit scores that use the same model differ between credit reporting bureaus, its typically because they dont have the same information. Here are a few of the reasons you might see different credit scores.
- Your scores are from different dates. Different bureaus receive information from lenders at different times. If new information is accounted for in one credit score and not the other, the scores may differ.
- Your scores are calculated using different credit reports. Its up to lenders to decide which credit bureaus they report your information two. Some report to all three major credit bureaus, while others report to only one or two. If your Equifax credit report has information that your TransUnion report doesnt , your scores may differ.
- Your credit reports contain incorrect information. Its possible that one or several of your credit reports contain errors. Thats why we recommend regularly checking your credit reports for errors that may affect your scores anddisputing those errors, if need be.