In A Nutshell
Reviewing your credit report regularly is one of the best things you can do to maintain good financial health. AnnualCreditReport.com, which is run by the three major credit bureaus, is the only credit report site approved by the federal government as a place for consumers to get all three credit reports for free.
What is AnnualCreditReport.com?
AnnualCreditReport.com is a website maintained by three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. The credit bureaus created the site in response to an amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) that requires the agencies to give consumers one free credit report every 12 months.
Through the site, you can access your credit reports for free and even file a dispute online if you spot inaccurate information on a report. While there are a number of copycat sites out there, AnnualCreditReport.com is the only one approved by the federal government as an official site for getting your free report per the FCRA.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, AnnualCreditReport.com announced it will offer free credit reports every week through April 2021. You can get your weekly reports from the site by following the same steps for getting your annual reports.
Pros vs. Cons of Annual Credit Report
AnnualCreditReport.com is a totally legitimate site and the only government-approved place to get your credit reports without spending any money. There are a couple of drawbacks, but they’re minor compared to the benefits.
The main draw of AnnualCreditReport.com is that it offers a one-stop shop for getting all three of your credit reports for free. The credit bureaus created the site in response to a federal mandate under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) of 2003, which gives every consumer the right to receive their credit report from all three bureaus once every 12 months.
The site is an important tool for staying on top of your credit, but it has a couple of downsides. Here is what you need to know.
- No credit score – You won’t get your credit score from AnnualCreditReport.com, as the credit bureaus are only required to provide your credit report. However, you can get your credit score for free by signing up for the Discover Credit Scorecard.
- Imposter sites – This isn’t a knock against AnnualCreditReport.com, but there are several imitator sites that try to get consumers to pay for a report they should be getting for free. Many of these websites have names similar to AnnualCreditReport.com, so it’s important to make sure you’re on the correct site before submitting your personal information.
- 45-day dispute – Ordinarily, federal law gives the credit bureaus 30 days to respond after you dispute information on your credit report. If you file an online dispute through the AnnualCreditReport.com site, however, the bureaus get 45 days.
How to use Annual Credit Report
Getting your free credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com is straightforward and easy. Here are five steps to get your reports.
1. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com
The AnnualCreditReport.com site is the only website authorized by the U.S. government for getting your free credit reports. When you visit the homepage, you should see the following image:
2. Enter your personal data
For security purposes, AnnualCreditReport.com requires you to submit a few important pieces of information, including your name, address, date of birth, and social security number.
3. Request your reports
You can request credit reports from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. It’s a good idea to request all three reports, as the information on one report might be different from the others.
4. Correctly answer security questions
Once you select the reports you want, the system will ask you several questions based on information and accounts that appear in those reports. For example, you might be asked what year you took out a mortgage or what make and model of car you financed in a certain year.
The point of these questions is to make sure you’re not a hacker trying to get unauthorized access to someone else’s credit reports.
In some cases, people find the questions too difficult, or they can’t remember details about financial transactions that happened years ago. If you have trouble answering the security questions, you can request your credit reports by mail or over the phone.
To get your credit reports by mail, download and complete the mail request form. Mail your completed form to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
If you want to request your credit reports over the phone, call 1-877-322-8228.
5. Download your reports
Once you have successfully answered the security questions for each report, you can download your reports so you can refer back to them as needed. For a guide to understanding your report, check out how to read your credit report.
5 Reasons to review your credit report annually
The information that appears on your credit report determines your credit score, which plays a big role in your financial well-being. A good credit score can open doors of opportunity, and a bad score can slam them shut.
Knowing what’s on your credit report can help you stay in control of your financial health. Here are five reasons why you should review your credit reports at least once a year.
- Spot errors and dispute them – Does your credit report contain an error that is unfairly pulling down your credit score? According to a study conducted by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) 1 in 5 consumers have a mistake on their credit report. By reviewing your reports every year, you’ll know what info is supposed to be there, as well as data that is false, inaccurate or doesn’t belong to you. If you find mistakes, you can dispute them and get them removed.
- Get notice of overlooked debts – No matter how careful you are about staying up to date on bills, it’s always possible for something to slip through the cracks. For example, if you have surgery or an emergency medical issue, you could receive bills from dozens of providers. If a bill goes unpaid, there’s a chance it could end up on your credit report. Reviewing your report on a regular basis means you can catch outstanding debts and pay them before the creditor files a lawsuit, which can lead to a lien or your property or the garnishment of your wages.
- Stop identity theft – 14.4 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2018. If someone is using your personal information to get credit or using your accounts without your permission, this activity is likely to show up on your credit report.
- Save money – Being proactive about your credit can help you save money over time. When you understand the five factors that affect your credit score, you can take steps to improve your score, which will save you money on interest when you apply for new credit down the road.
- It’s free – Checking your credit reports through AnnualCreditReport.com costs you nothing. You have nothing to lose, so why not take advantage of the free service?
Annual Credit Report Reviews
AnnualCreditReport.com has its share of positive and negative reviews. The majority of negative reviews reference some kind of technical difficulty navigating the website.
Some negative reviewers also say they were denied reports because they couldn’t answer the security questions about their financial history. If you can’t remember details about old accounts, you can still request your free reports through the mail or by phone.
Watch out for credit report scams
Unfortunately, there are imposter sites that try to imitate AnnualCreditReport.com or promise free credit reports as a way to scam people out of money. Here are several red flags to watch for, as they are probably signs of a credit report scam.
- Lookalike URLs – Many imposter sites include terms similar to Annual Credit Report in their name. For example, they might say “annual report” or “free report.”Also be cautious of URLs that try to copy the AnnualCreditReport name. For example, a credit scam site might have a URL with “AnnualCreditReports” with “reports” as plural in an attempt to mislead consumers.
- Prompts to make a payment – AnnualCreditReport.com is totally free, and you never have to pay anything to get your credit reports. If a site asks you for payment or redirects you to another site that charges a fee, this could be a sign of a scam.
- Spelling errors – Be wary of any credit report or credit repair website that contains spelling mistakes or improper grammar. This could be a sign that the site originates overseas, which raises red flags about its legitimacy.
- Promises to fix your credit – Some credit report scams lure people in by promising to fix bad credit. While there are legitimate credit repair companies, they state up front that they can’t make any guarantees. Credit repair companies are also prohibited by law from asking for payment before they have performed work on your behalf. Steer clear of any website or company that asks for money upfront.
Annual Credit Report FAQs
The following are some of the most frequently asked questions and answers about Annual Credit Report.
Is it safe to use Annual Credit Report?
According to AnnualCreditReport.com, it uses encryption to safeguard consumers’ data. Its security policy page states that it encrypts user data when a consumer fills out a credit report request form and also when the site sends user data to any of the national credit reporting agencies.
In addition, consumers must answer security questions before they are granted access to their credit reports. These questions are very specific on purpose, and someone would have to know very detailed information about your accounts and financial history to gain access without your permission.
Is Annual Credit Report.com legit?
AnnualCreditReport.com is a legitimate website and the only site authorized by the federal government to give consumers free access to their credit reports under the FCRA and FACTA.
Which annual credit report is best?
AnnualCreditReport.com gives consumers access to all three credit reports from the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. No single report is better than the others.
In fact, it’s important to check all three reports, as accounts and info that appears on one report might be missing from another. Some creditors only report to one or two credit bureaus, so checking all three of your reports ensures you get a complete picture of your credit profile.
Does Annual Credit Report hurt your credit?
No, requesting your credit reports through AnnualCreditReport.com won’t result in a hard inquiry on your credit and has no impact on your credit score.
AnnualCreditReport.com is a free and easy way to keep tabs on your credit reports on a regular basis. Having this information is an important part of using credit wisely.