Many people know that they can go to http://www.annualcreditreport.com and get a free copy of their credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus once every 12 months. But most consumers are unaware that tens of millions of individuals are also legally entitled to get more than one free credit report each year. Read on to discover if you are one of them.
Who Qualifies for “Extra” Free Credit Reports?
Even if you have already received your “once a year” free credit report as mandated by federal FACT Act, you are entitled another free credit report – or perhaps several of them – if you meet other criteria.
By law, you qualify for a free report anytime a company takes “adverse” action against you based, at least in part, on information it got from your credit file. In layman’s terms, this means that anytime you get turned down for employment, denied insurance, or rejected for any credit application due to credit-related reasons, you are eligible to get a free copy of your credit report – provided you ask for it within 60 days of receiving that denial or “adverse” action notification.
If you are denied something based on your credit standing, the company rejecting you will send you a letter telling you which credit reporting agency (or agencies) they used to evaluate your credit history. The three main credit bureaus are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You can then contact the appropriate credit bureau and ask for a credit report – even if you’ve already received a free report for the year. What’s more, if you fit into any of these other categories, you can also get a free credit report:
- You are receiving public assistance
- You have been a victim of identity theft
- You are unemployed and plan to go job-seeking in the next 60 days
- You reside in a state that offers a free or reduced-priced credit report (this applies to residents of CA, CO, CT, GA, ME, MD, MA, MN, NJ, VT, and the USVI)
By my estimates, as of early 2010, more than 60 million Americans fit into the first three categories, making them eligible for free credit reports at this very moment. After all, the number of Americans receiving food stamps (public assistance) recently hit a record 36 million. Some 10 million people a year are victimized by identity theft. And there are approximately 15 million unemployed adults in the United States.
Lastly, if you are disputing erroneous or fraudulent information in your credit report, perhaps as a result of identity theft, you too can get a free copy of your credit file.
To get your free credit reports based on any of the circumstances mentioned above, or to initiate a credit dispute with the credit bureaus, use the following contact information for each credit reporting agency. For fastest results, reach the bureaus online:
By phone, call: 877-576-5766 for a free report; or 888-800-8859 for a dispute
By mail, send your dispute to:
Equifax Information Services, LLC
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374
By phone, call: 888-397-3742 for a free report; or 866-200-6020 for a dispute
By mail, send your dispute to:
P.O. Box 9556
Allen, TX 75013
By phone, call: 800-888-4213 for a free report; or 800-916-8800 for a dispute
By mail, send your dispute to:
TransUnion Consumer Solutions
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19022-2000
Tip: Because web links frequently change, if you go to any of the websites and can’t find what you’re searching for, type phrases such as “Free Credit Report,” “Denied Credit,” or “Credit Dispute” into their search boxes, and you should ultimately be able to track down what you need.
How To Get Free Credit Reports From Other Companies In the Credit Industry
After you’ve exhausted your free credit report options via www.annualcreditreport.com, and have received any complimentary reports you may be eligible for (as a result of being unemployed, denied credit, etc.), you can still snag additional credit reports or summaries of your credit files without forking over any money.
Simply use the no-cost offerings provided by companies such as FreeCreditReport.com, Quizzle.com, CreditKarma.com, Credit.com or Zendough.com. Many more companies offer free credit reports too. But I’ve personally received free credit reports and credit summaries from each of these organizations and can attest to their ease of use and benefits.
FreeCreditReport.com, for example, will provide you with a complimentary copy of your Experian credit report when you sign up for the company’s monthly credit monitoring service. Is this a good deal? Actually: Yes – mainly because everyone should have credit monitoring, in my opinion. If you don’t want credit monitoring, however, simply call FreeCreditReport.com within a 7-day trial period to cancel, and you’ll pay nothing. Either way, you still get the free Experian credit report.
Quizzle.com also offers consumers a free credit report from Experian. In fact, Quizzle provides you with a complimentary copy of your Experian credit file every six months, and no credit monitoring or trial subscription is required.
With CreditKarma.com and Credit.com, you don’t get an actual credit report. However, each company does give you a “Credit Report Card,” which is a snapshot of your TransUnion credit file, in condensed format – along with a letter grade of A, B, C, D or F – to summarize your credit health in various areas.
Lastly, at Zendough.com, which promises to help you achieve financial peace of mind and mastery over your credit, you can get a free copy of your 3-Bureau Credit Report (showing your complete credit files from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) when you sign up for the company’s monthly credit-monitoring and education service. Again, if you choose not to keep it, simply cancel during the 7-day trial period and pay nothing. You still get all three of your credit reports at no cost.
Each of these websites are highly secure, use encryption to safeguard your data, and also offer credit tips and tools to help you improve your credit rating. And in case you’re wondering how companies like Quizzle.com or CreditKarma.com can afford to provide you with a free credit report, it’s because they sell advertising or get fees for marketing financial products on their websites, like credit monitoring, identity-theft protection service, home loans or deals for credit cards.
The main point to remember is that, even if you have already gotten your free annual reports via annualcreditreport.com, but you want to check your credit files again for any reason, you have a few options.