There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Maybe you can think of an exception, but the only free lunches I’ve been on were for interviews or retirement seminars. How about free credit reports?
Surprisingly, yes, there is a way to get a free credit report. You can get a free credit report from each credit agency every year, to boot. How to do it? For starters, you don’t go to the site with the singing pirates.
Annual Credit Report
The pirates sing a catchy tune, but their pitch comes with a catch. Freecreditreport.com comes with credit monitoring. The service they sell is potentially useful: credit monitoring, trend tracking, and a report. It’s also potentially misleading; it’s easy to think you are just getting a free credit report, when you are actually signing up for the whole service.
So, where do you get the report with none of the filler? Annualcreditreport.com is the name of the game. They don’t have any singing pirates or used sub-compacts. What they do have is instant access (instant-ish, you’ll need to fill in some knowable details off your report for identity verification) to the three credit reporting bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.
A 2003 law named the Fair Credit Reporting Act is the thing to thank for the ability to check your report. The law regulates the usage and collection of consumer information. It also guarantees you the ability to check your report with each of the bureaus each year. You can see where you have lines of credit (and other things, like debts in collection, and gym memberships). Most importantly, you can challenge inaccurate information, such as late fees that were never late.
You get to check your report once a year for each bureau. Even though all three bureaus are generally synced up, sometimes one bureau will report something the others don’t, or not have information the other two do. This makes the credit reports useful to pull with big purchases like cars and homes when a credit check is upcoming. Checking your credit report will NOT hurt your FICO score.
Alternatively, you can check your credit score once every four months, from a different bureau each time. Happy hunting!