I typically have very good credit, so I actually like ordering my free credit report (as opposed to reading my credit card statements or checking my bank balance!).
But more than that, I know monitoring my credit is critical to protect my identity and my ability to one day qualify for a big loan, like a car or a home.
Here is some information on credit reports and five sites that will give you insight into your credit for free.
What do you get with a credit report?
A credit report gives you a literal list of your financial activity as it may affect your credit score.
Here is what you can expect to see:
- Details on where you live, including past addresses.
- Details on how you pay your bills.
- Whether you have ever been sued.
- Whether you have ever filed for bankruptcy.
- If any creditor has filed a dispute against you.
- If you have missed payments or been late with payments to any creditor.
Credit report vs. credit score
A “credit report” is NOT the same as a “credit score.”
- Credit report: Detailed list of financial activity that is used to calculate your credit score.
- Credit score: A single number (from 300-850) that denotes your credit worthiness ranking relative to other consumers. A credit score simply indicates to a creditor and/or lender how likely you are to pay your bills on time.
Why order your credit report?
If you’re interested in applying for a loan now or someday, if you’ve ever been a victim of identity theft, or if you’re working to improve your credit score, then ordering your credit report can be very useful!
Here are some major benefits of ordering your credit report:
- You can settle disputes quickly so they’re wiped off your credit report.
- You can monitor the security and safety of your identity.
- Verify the accuracy of the information and data on your credit report—this is very important if creditors will be looking at your report in the near future.
5 Websites for a free credit report
You may need to use more than one of these services together to get free copies of both your credit score and your credit report.
1. Credit Sesame
- Website: http://www.creditsesame.com
- What you can get for free: Your credit score.
Credit Sesame will provide you with a free credit score and doesn’t require you to sign up for a free trial, add a credit card or any other gimmicks that are common in the credit industry today. When you join (it’s free), you can get your credit score monthly as well as personalized savings advice.
All of your credit data comes from Experian (see #3 for more), so while you may also want to pull your reports at least annually for free from the other two bureaus (just in case there are errors or discrepancies between them), this is a great way to monitor your score monthly.
- Website: http://www.myfico.com
- What you can get for free: Your credit score.
I used MyFico recently when I needed a copy of my credit report to apply for a new rental home (my new landlord-to-be recommended it). I found it very quick and easy.
The advantage of choosing MyFico is that MyFico is the site used by 90% of creditors/lenders when assessing loan applications, and since credit scores can vary depending on the service you use, you have the best chance of seeing what your creditors/lenders will be seeing when you use MyFico.
Bonus tip: Just be sure to cancel the mandatory 30-day free trial before 30 days has passed to avoid your card being charged $24.95!
3. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
- Website: http://www.annualcreditreport.com
- What you can get for free: Your credit report.
There are three ways to request your free credit report. You can visit the website (above); call 1-877-322-8228; or download, fill out, and mail in the PDF request form.
The FTC requires EACH of the three major credit reporting bureaus, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax, to provide you with a FREE copy of your credit report every 12 months. The sole catch is—you must request it, and you must use the link/phone number/form rather than contacting each bureau directly.
4. Credit Karma
- Website: https://www.creditkarma.com
- What you can get for free: Your credit score, although this is not a FICO score but a TransRisk score (with a number range from 100-900).
Credit Karma works very similarly to Credit Sesame (see #1), only this service uses TransUnion rather than Experian to pull your credit report data.
Here again, since you’re not getting a FICO score, you may find your TransRisk score and your FICO score are different (and creditors/lenders will defer to your FICO score).
- Website: https://www.quizzle.com
- What you can get for free: Your credit score (called a CE Score, based on a range of 350-850), and your free credit report from Experian.
In addition, you can get insights into why your score isn’t higher and register direct disputes to Experian. However, it’s worth noting that the CE Score is not used by creditors/lenders, and this score may also differ from your FICO score.