While any company who denies you credit must provide you with some basic information about why they did so, which includes the credit reporting agency from whom they obtained your credit information and the credit score that agency has for you, most do not provide you with your actual credit report. So how do you get a copy of your report and can you get it for free or will you have to pay for it?
Getting a Free Copy of Your Credit Report
Federal law allows all consumers to obtain one free copy of their credit report from each of the three national credit reporting agencies once every 12 months. You can order your free reports from the government website: Annual Credit Report.
The website will provide you with links to follow to obtain your report from each of the reporting agencies, who will then ask for your full name, date of birth, and social security number. You will also be required to answer a few security questions in order to further verify your identity. These questions are multiple-choice and include items such as:
- At which of the addresses below did you previously live?
- What company did you take a car loan from in 2004?
- Have you ever worked for any of the following companies?
- In 1999 you took out a mortgage from which bank?
- What is your astrological sign?
If you can answer all of the questions correctly you will be able to view, save, and/or print your credit report immediately, and if you wish, return to the government site to order your report from the next agency. If you cannot answer all of the questions correctly, do not worry, you can still obtain your free credit report by following the instructions to receive a printed copy by mail. If you have already obtained your free credit reports in the last 12 months and need a copy now, you can pay for one, but be careful who you pay and what other fees, subscriptions, or services are included or required.
Purchasing a Copy of Your Credit Report
For those who need a copy of their credit report immediately and are unable to obtain a free one, there are options to pay for a copy, but not all are equal, and you should carefully evaluate the fees, services, and subscription requirements involved before placing an order. You should also be aware that if you are only unable to obtain an immediate free copy because you could not successfully answer all of the security questions, the paid options will likely also involve security questions that will prevent you from obtaining your report right away, so you may want to call first to ensure that you will be granted instant access if that is your goal.
Purchasing Your Credit Report from the Reporting Agency
The best place to start, when considering where to purchase a copy of your credit report, is the credit reporting agencies. You can decide which agency’s report you really want or need, or purchase all three if you wish. Each agency offers different options for purchasing your report, including monthly subscriptions which allow unlimited access to your credit report and credit score, identity theft and credit monitoring and/or protection services, and credit score recommendations. The three national credit reporting agencies are:
Equifax Information Services LLC
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374-0256
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016
P.O. Box 4500
Allen, TX 75013
When visiting the credit reporting agencies’ websites to purchase a copy of your report, you may see options to obtain it for free by registering as a free user. Choosing this option will provide you with some of the information contained in your credit report, but it will not allow you to view, save, or print your actual credit report as others see it when checking your credit and much of the information may be inaccurate or listed on the summary report differently than it is in your actual credit report, which is what lenders and potential employers will see. For example:
- Open accounts may be listed as closed or vise versa
- Account information such as balances and credit limits may be inaccurate or missing
- Entire accounts may be missing
These free summary reports will give you an idea of what is on your actual credit report but are not a substitute for the real credit report that others will see when checking your credit. They also do not generally include your credit score, which is an important part of your credit report.
Purchasing Your Credit Report from a Third Party Service Provider
There are many companies that offer credit report and credit score services for a flat or monthly fee. These companies, like the credit reporting agencies, may also offer services such as credit lock and monitoring, credit simulators, identity theft protection and credit alerts. They may also require you to answer some of the same security questions that the government website and credit reporting agency sites require before you can access your report.
When reviewing third party service providers, read the fine print and call and ask what is included with the fee if you need to, as many only provide you with a one-time credit report but continue to charge you monthly for other services, charge you for the summary report, not the actual credit report, that you can obtain from the credit reporting agency for free, or advertise as if you will receive all three reports when in fact you will only get one. Ultimately, your best bet is to stay away from third party credit report providers and obtain your reports directly from the credit reporting agencies or the government website, Annual Credit Report.
If you are experiencing problems with your credit report, such as inaccurate information from a creditor or debt collector or the inability to obtain a copy of your report, feel free to contact our office at 1-800-219-3577, for a free, no obligation consultation.