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Free Credit Reports: AnnualCreditReport.com

Every 12 months, you can get your credit report for free from each of the three major credit reporting agencies (CRAs) by visiting the www.AnnualCreditReport.com website. The Big 3 CRAs are Experian®, Equifax® and TransUnion®.

The AnnualCreditReport.com website was created by an act of Congress, and it guarantees anyone with a valid Social Security number access to all three major CRAs at no charge, annually.

NB: You do not have to ask a credit bureau to create a credit profile for you. CRAs create profiles and scores automatically. When you apply for any kind of financing, be it a credit card, mortgage, car loan, personal loan, etc. it is extremely likely that lenders will not only pull one or more of your credit reports and/or credit scores, from one or more CRA, but they will also make it clear to you that they will report your payment (or non-payment) history to one or more nationally recognized CRA.

Free Credit Scores

If you want access to one or more of your credit scores, there are many companies that offer this service for a fee. Fair Isaac Corporation produces various FICO® credit scores, which are in turn used by many credit reporting agencies and lenders to produce even more -- usually a lot more! -- proprietary credit scores.

The 19 most common FICO credit scores are used by all sorts of lenders to determine how risky it would be to do business with you, and the interest rates you'll pay on all kinds of loans, including first and second mortgages, credit cards, car loans and personal loans. Moreover, credit scores are used by many insurance companies to determine how risky it would be to insure you as a driver or a homeowner.

In January of 2008, the Fair Isaac Corporation introduced an updated FICO scoring system called FICO 08. FICO 08 is designed to be better than its predecessor at determining a borrower's risk of delinquency and/or default. The new scoring model could greatly impact the credit scores of high-risk consumers, i.e. those who have blemished credit, and those who have a thin or non-existent credit history.

NB: Before paying for a credit score, see if your credit-card issuer offers a free score from one of the major CRAs. Citi®, for example, started offering Citi cardholders free access to their Equifax credit score.

Credit Karma® offers free access to your TransUnion and Equifax scores, based on the VantageScore 3.0 scoring model. There is no catch: Credit Karma makes money by advertising lots of loan and credit products on the CreditKarma.com website.

Alternatives to Credit Karma: Credit Sesame and FreeCreditScore.com.

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Content on this webpage updated on February 14, 2016
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