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Hopefully you already know that federal law entitles you to a free credit report every year. That’s not the only way you could get a free report, though.
There are also life circumstances — including common events, such as unemployment — that might qualify you for a free credit report above and beyond those limited opportunities.
You should pull your report at least annually and review it for errors and opportunities to boost your credit score. The contents of your report determine your credit score. And that score can determine everything from the interest rates for which you qualify to the jobs employers offer you.
So, if these life events happen to you, it makes sense to take advantage of these freebies and examine your credit report closely.
Circumstances that may qualify you for a free credit report
- A company has notified you within the past 60 days that it took adverse action against you — such as denying you credit, insurance or employment — based on your credit report. The notice will state which credit reporting company to contact for a free credit report.
- Your credit report is inaccurate due to fraud, including identity theft.
- You request a credit report in connection with placing a fraud alert on your report. Note that you place a fraud alert by contacting one of the same credit reporting companies that maintain credit reports.
- You are unemployed and intend to apply for a job within 60 days.
- You receive public welfare assistance.
- Your state’s laws provide for a free credit report. According to TransUnion, a credit reporting company, eight states have such laws.
If you already received a free credit report in the past year and none of these situations applies to you, know that you can still get a copy of your credit report by paying for it. By law, a credit reporting company cannot charge you more than $12 for a report, the CFPB notes.
How to request a free annual credit report
Federal law requires three particular nationwide credit-reporting agencies to provide free credit reports annually: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
You can request credit reports from them by going through AnnualCreditReport.com or going directly to a credit-reporting company. In either case, you can generally make your request online, by phone or by mail.
Going through AnnualCreditReport.com is easier in that you can choose to receive your credit report from all three nationwide credit-reporting agencies with a single request. For a detailed description of this process, see “How to Get Your Free Credit Report in 6 Easy Steps.”
Review your credit reports from all three nationwide credit reporting companies because each company pulls credit data from varying sources. This means each company’s credit report on you may have different information.
So, if an error appears on only one company’s credit report for you but you don’t request a report from that specific company, you will not know about the error.
Just don’t go through any third-party websites except for AnnualCreditReport.com. The FTC warns that it’s the only website authorized to issue free annual credit reports in accordance with federal law:
“Other websites that claim to offer ‘free credit reports,’ ‘free credit scores,’ or ‘free credit monitoring’ are not part of the legally mandated free annual credit report program. In some cases, the ‘free’ product comes with strings attached.”
How to request a free credit report under certain circumstances
The same three nationwide credit reporting companies that must provide free annual credit reports also must provide free credit reports to folks under certain circumstances like the six outlined above.
To request a free report due to one of those circumstances, go directly to the credit reporting companies. Each company’s website offers information about requesting a free report for such reasons. For example, check out:
- Equifax’s “How Do I Get My Free Credit Report?” webpage
- Experian’s “When You Can Get Free Credit Reports” webpage
- TransUnion’s “You may be eligible for a reduced or free credit report” webpage
What to do with your credit report
If you find errors on any of your credit reports, get right to work correcting them.
The process can be a protracted pain that involves going back and forth with an entity like a credit reporting company, creditor or lender. But correcting credit-report errors — as well as addressing an accurate but negative credit report — can ultimately save you untold dollars or grief by improving your credit score.
Money Talks News has plenty of pointers:
- “Fixing Your Credit? Do These 5 Things, Avoid These 3“
- “Ask Stacy — How Can I Get a Delinquency Off of My Credit Report?“
- “Ask Stacy: Can I Repair My Own Credit?“
Lastly, don’t expect to see your credit score on your credit report — but don’t sweat this, either. You can get your credit score for free.
What’s your experience with checking your credit report? Share with us below or on our Facebook page.