Choosing Your Free Credit Report
It may seem counterintuitive, but a major economic event is a good time to do a review of your financial affairs and checking your credit is one important step you can take. This provides a baseline of where you are financially that can be compared to the changes that may occur during an economic downturn. It can help you make sound financial decisions that can also help protect credit.
Luckily reviewing a credit report is easy to do. There are many websites that offer access to reports, but the most well-known and trusted is AnnualCreditReport.com (ACR). This is the site that was set up by the government so that people across the U.S. can access their credit reports, for free, at least one time per year.* These comprehensive reports can be used to ensure the information in the reports is correct and if not, dispute the information directly to the credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
ACR does not provide credit scores for free, however they are available for purchase from each one of the bureaus. The other option is to access a credit report from one of the other free sites found on the web. Some provide credit reports and scores. However, not all sites are created equal, so we suggest researching sites before signing up. Look at other consumer ratings of the site, Better Business Bureau rankings and do your own research regarding the reports, scores, and other services available at the site.
The list below provides an overview of some sites that provide credit reports and/or scores. As this shows, there is a variance in the reports and the scores offered between sites.
|Site||Bureaus Provided||Score Provided||Type of Score||Can You Re-access Report||Really Free?|
|No, but available for purchase||Varies by bureau||Once every 12 months*||Yes|
|Credit Sesame||Experian||Yes||Vantage 3.0||Report NOT provided for free||Score only|
|Bankrate (formerly Quizzle)||TransUnion||Yes||Vantage 3.0||Yes||Yes|
Some important things to remember when visiting any of the above sites.
- Most sites make money by offering other products or services for which there are fees. Some may be products offered by the site such as additional credit reports or credit monitoring, but others will be financial products like credit cards and loans. Before deciding to use or apply for the other services, be sure they fit your financial needs. Remember, inquiries to open new lines of credit do impact a credit score.
- Credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com are typically more comprehensive than those found on the other sites. Be sure to take advantage of these reports, at least, once per year. *
- All sites will require that you answer identifying information about yourself to view your reports and your scores.
- A note about the scores: In lending, scores are very important. As shown, some sites offer a Vantage Score and others a FICO score. The most widely used credit score in lending is a FICO score. If you are thinking about borrowing money, you will want to know your FICO credit score.
Credit reports and scores and an important tool in protecting our financial health. Using one or more of the tools above allows us to have the information necessary to dispute errors that may be in the reports. Using the report, our budget and other financial information, we can make informed decisions about our finances.
At American Financial Solutions, the financial health of our clients is mission critical. We hope this information is helpful as your success is our success. For more information, tools and resources, or one-on-one assistance, contact us today!
*At the time of this writing, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion are offering their reports, via annualcreditreport.com, on a weekly basis – for free.
Published May 11, 2020.