According to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), each of the major consumer reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) must provide you with a free copy of your credit report once every year – if you request it. Doing a credit report check is extremely important to ensure that the information contained in your credit report is accurate. If it contains errors, it may negatively impact your ability to get credit or to obtain a reasonable interest rate. In other words, credit report mistakes can cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars per year.
Because the three different consumer reporting agencies collect different information, it’s important to look at all three. However, some financial experts suggest staggering out the requests at four-month intervals to keep tabs on your credit reports throughout the year. In other words, it may be better to request one in January, one in May, and one in September rather than requesting all three at once.
When you order a credit report, you’ll get information about your credit report score, as well as a list of businesses that have accessed your credit report in the previous twelve months and a list of employment-related requests over the previous two years.
Problems and Unusual Circumstances
If you’re denied credit, insurance, or employment because of something that’s on your credit report, the law says that you’re entitled to a free copy of that report from the consumer reporting agency – providing you send a written request within 60 days of being told you were denied. In addition, you can request a free copy of your credit report if you’re unemployed and are going to look for work within 60 days, if you’re receiving welfare benefits, or if there’s a problem on your credit report due to fraud.
Keep in mind, though, that you can obtain copies of your credit reports anytime you’d like by paying the consumer reporting agency around $10. However, if you live in Colorado, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, or Vermont, state law provide for free access to credit reports.
Getting Your Credit Report
According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you can obtain your free annual credit report by phone, mail, or via the federal website, annualcreditreport.com. Obtaining an online credit report through the government portal is the fastest way to access your credit report.
If you prefer to receive your annual credit report through the mail (which takes two to three weeks), you can call 877-322-8228 or download the official request form at annualcreditreport.com, complete it, and mail it to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
PO Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
To buy a copy of your credit report, you can contact the individual consumer reporting agencies:
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
P.O. Box 2104
Allen, TX 75013
P.O. Box 1000
Chester, PA 19022
When requesting your credit report (either your free annual report or one for which you pay), you’ll likely need to provide some personal information so that the consumer reporting agency can confirm it’s you. They may, for example, request your Social Security number, date of birth, previous address, or the amount of a particular payment.
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