Yes, there is a way for you to obtain a free credit report that’s not a cover for hidden fees, and doesn’t involve embarrassing yourself by being turned down for a credit card.
A provision of the 2003 Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act requires TransUnion, Equifax and Experian to provide a free credit report once a year to any consumer who requests one. Accessing credit information in this manner does not lower a consumer’s credit score.
How can you take advantage of this service? It’s easy. Simply set your browser to the Annual Credit Report website. When you access the site, you will be asked which state you reside in. After you have provided that information, you will be taken to a screen where you will be asked to provide basic information confirming your identity.
Once the registration process is complete, you will be asked to choose which of the three credit bureaus you want to receive a report from. Remember you are entitled to one free report from each over the course of 12 months. If you are using the Annual Credit Report’s website for routine credit monitoring, your best bet is to order a report from a different bureau every four months. However, if you are planning a major purchase like a car or a house, you’d be well advised to check all three versions of your credit history at the same time.
You make your request. Now comes the tricky part – the program wants to verify first of all that it’s dealing with a human being, and second that the human being it’s dealing with is you and not an identity thief. So you will be asked a series of questions based upon actual information contained in your files.
It’s a good idea to prepare for this interview beforehand by assembling a set of your current bills. While you may easily remember the names of any current lenders, the actual account number under which your loan was issued is another story, and you may be asked to provide information about both.
After you’ve answered these questions correctly, you will be asked whether you want your credit scores, or just a free copy of your report. Your credit scores are not free: Experian charges you $5.95 for its VantageScore, Equifax and TransUnion each charge $7.95 to access your FICO information. If you elect to buy your credit scores, you will be asked to enter credit card information.
After this transaction is complete, you will be taken to the website of the credit bureau you requested and given access to your financial data.