5 On Your Side

When is a 'free' credit report really free?

Posted May 5, 2008

Consumers find 13 million errors on their credit reports each year – a good reason to get that copy of your credit report that the government requires the big credit agencies to give you for free annually.

But be wary: Although many companies seem to promise your credit report at no cost, they can end up costing you plenty.

"If you click on FreeCreditReport.com's Web site to order your credit report, you're automatically billed $14.95 a month for a credit-monitoring service after a free trial," Consumer Reports staffer Amanda Walker said. "So essentially, your free credit report costs you about $180 a year."

Stay away from those Web sites with "free" in their name, Walker cautioned.

"It's money you don't have to spend," she said. "You're already entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the major bureaus each year."

AnnualCreditReport.com is the only place to get a truly free credit report. You can also call 877-322-8228.

Each year, you can get a separate, free report from each of the three major credit agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

"It's a good idea to stagger your requests," Walker said. "You can order one of your reports every four months. And that way it gives you an opportunity to check up on your credit throughout the year."

Once you get your credit report, check it for accuracy and possible fraud. Any errors you find need to be fixed.

For information on how to spot and correct credit errors, click here.

10 Comments

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  • oldrebel May 8, 2008

    Spread these three reports out, one every four months or so, and then you can get you "three free reports annually" and also keep a running tab on your current credit iamge rather than do all three at once and then have to wait a whole year to repeat the process.

  • teck May 7, 2008

    the only good thing about the freecreditreport.com is the catchy jingle in their tv and radio ads.

  • nosmo_king58 May 6, 2008

    Clark Howard did a segment on his show last week about a couple of sites that now provide a free credit score (although it may not be the FICO score). He notes that they do try to sell you something, but you can decline and still get a score. Details at:
    http://clarkhoward.com/liveweb/shownotes/2008/04/29/13500/

  • chivegas May 6, 2008

    "This story has been discussed a few times before on this blog. But a good reminder for those who don't already know the facts. A good way to really find out your credit score is to apply for a new loan. I recently did that and was very happy to see that my score was excellent.....795!!!"

    True, but if you do that more than 3 times a year, you're hurting your score...another one of the shady credit things they don't tell you.

  • owlady May 6, 2008

    This story has been discussed a few times before on this blog.
    But a good reminder for those who don't already know the facts.
    A good way to really find out your credit score is to apply for a new loan. I recently did that and was very happy to see that my score was excellent.....795!!!

  • nathanius May 6, 2008

    I am amazed at all the websites that are similar to annualcreditreport.com, they should have given it a .gov URL to minimize confusion. Bloodsuckers charging for something that is free.

  • happy May 6, 2008

    I agree but Experian only charges $5.95. I still think it's wrong that you have to pay to receive your own information but they are a little bit cheaper.

  • allison842 May 6, 2008

    Yeah, not being able to know the SCORE for free is total garbage.

  • rbaff79 May 6, 2008

    Remember that these 3 sites (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian) only give a free credit report. Your credit score is NOT FREE!
    For example, Equifax gives these 3 options on their site:
    1. View your FICO® score once with your credit disclosure request for just $ 7.95
    2. Get two in depth FICO® score reports and stay updated on important changes to your score with Score Watch™ for just $ 7.95 per month
    3. No Thanks, I Don’t Want to Know My Score

    So it's not completely FREE.

    HTH!

  • allison842 May 6, 2008

    Hey, thanks for the info on where to get a REALLY free report!