Free Credit Reports or Hype?

Free Credit Reports or Hype?


A deluge of television and radio ads promoting free credit reports  have certainly caught the attention of many consumers. After all, no one would put so much money into an expensive advertising campaign unless it worked, right?

credit cardTake a closer look at what is being offered and you soon learn that there is a string attached to the so-called free offer. You will get your credit reports for free, but you’ll have to pay for a second service – credit monitoring – that you may not need.

How To Get Your Free Copies

Instead of paying for something that you don’t need, why not get copies of your report for free? As a result of an amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act in 2003, Congress authorized the Federal Trade Commission to require that copies of your credit report be made available to you for no charge. Previously, in order to obtain your copy, you would have had to pay a fee for each one. Beginning in September 2005, residents of all fifty states became eligible to get a free copy of their credit report from Experian, Trans Union, and Equifax once annually.

Why were the reports made available at no charge to consumers? Well, even though all three companies operate independently of the federal government, their combined strength carries so much weight in determining your credit standing that a decision was made that everyone should have the right to obtain their personal credit reports on demand. Moreover, since a substantial number of these reports have been determined to include errors, consumer advocates insisted that you shouldn’t have to pay to rectify someone else’s errors. Thusly, the Fair Credit Reporting Act as amended in 2003 became law.

Get It Online Or In Writing

There are several ways you can order your free credit reports, but there is only one web site that will give you your reports for free: Again, only this one site acts on behalf of Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union to give you your reports to you for free.

You can also call the following toll free number to order your free credit reports: 1-877-322-8228

If you wish, you can place your request in writing after downloading and filling out a form found online at If you choose this method, you will need to mail the form to:

Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281

For more information about the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Federal Trade Commission, please visit the following site:

When ordering your reports you can also ask for your FICO score. Unlike your free credit report, you will pay a small fee – usually $5 and $8 – to get your score. If you choose to find out your score you can use a credit card to pay for your order.

The three national credit reporting bureaus may also seek to sell other services to you while you are checking off the information for your free credit report. These services include alerts, but you probably don’t need them. If you select some of the other offers, you will be charged for those services, so be careful what you choose.


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Categories: Credit Reports

About Author

Matthew C. Keegan

Matt Keegan is a freelance writer and editor as well as publisher of "Matt's Musings", his personal blog. Matt covers campus, consumer, business and financial topics on various websites and blogs, and has been published in the "Houston Chronicle", "Sam's Club Magazine" and "Wisconsin Golfer".