Obtaining a low-cost credit report on a regular basis is one of the best ways that you can set yourself up for financial success in the future. If you are wondering whether you can actually get credit report information that you can trust, the answer is yes. Not only are you entitled to a free annual credit report from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), you can also use a variety of trusted services to get a report at other times of the year. 

Before seeking out any credit information, it helps to understand the difference between your report and a score. Your credit score serves as a number that lenders use to determine your creditworthiness. A report, on the other hand, is a detailed account of your credit history, including information on your borrowing habits, past credit usage, rental history, amount of debt and much more. Your credit score comes from information found on your report. With that in mind, it is helpful that you know how to access your credit score report and full report for free. 

How to Get Credit Report Information for Free

Many consumers are unaware of the fact that they are entitled to one free annual credit report from the FTC. This is a great resource that many people can benefit from using. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FRCA), consumers can get credit report results for free from the following credit bureaus every 12 months: 

  • Equifax
  • TransUnion 
  • Experian 

If you are wondering “How do I get my free credit report?” it helps to be aware that you can get just one report or all three reports at a time, depending on your preference. Note that regardless of which reports you want, your government credit report should be obtained from the official website in order to ensure that you are getting accurate results and that your personal information is secure. 

When you obtain a credit report online, government policies under the FRCA help protect your information from being used fraudulently. Because you have to enter personal information in order to obtain your report, it helps to know that your free yearly credit report does not put your data at risk. 

Obtaining a credit report requires that you enter the same types of information no matter where you choose to get your report from. Whether you want to get an Equifax credit report or a report from any other bureau for free, you must provide information including your:  

  • Name.
  • Date of birth. 
  • Social Security Number (SSN).
  • Current address.
  • Previous address(es) if you have moved in the past two years.

If you are trying to decide whether is it best to get an Experian free credit report, a Transunion credit report or another other type of report, keep in mind that you will usually benefit from obtaining each type of report. Each credit bureau uses its own data and processes to create a report. As a result, your score and other credit information may vary depending on the reporting bureau. With that in mind, having all three reports will give you a broader view of your credit standing. 

It is important to keep in mind that you can also pay for a credit report at any time of year by going directly through a credit reporting bureau or another trusted provider. If you already obtained your credit report for the year, you can always get an updated copy later in the year using this method. 

What does an online credit report contain?

Once you obtain a free annual credit report, it helps to know how to use the information that it contains. Regardless of where you got your report, it will contain the same basic information, such as: 

  • Your personal details, including your name, address, SSN, address and phone number. 
  • A list of your opened and closed credit accounts, including your debts and available balances. 
  • Your payment history on different credit accounts
  • Your rental or mortgage history
  • Any public records that may exist on you, such as information on liens, foreclosures, civil suits or bankruptcies. 

When you get credit report information, it is a good idea to read each report thoroughly. Remember that each credit bureau may use different criteria to determine the results of your report, so it may be necessary to look at more than one source for a more complete picture of your credit standing. 

By checking your reports regularly, you can stay on top of your credit and work towards any changes that may be necessary to improve your standing. Looking at your reports also allows you to identify mistakes that need to be corrected or discover questionable information that may indicate identity theft. 

How to Get Your Credit Report Score  

In many cases, you will simply want a credit report score so that you can get a quick glimpse of where you stand. While this number can give you a general sense of your credit standing, it does not provide a comprehensive look at your credit overall. 

When looking for the best free credit report, you will find that there are numerous services that allow you to monitor your score. Obtaining a free credit karma score, for example, is one of the most popular options. Through this service, you can get basic information on your credit as reported by TransUnion and Equifax, but not Experian. 

Credit Karma and other similar services work best for obtaining your credit score report for free. Keep in mind, however, that most free services like this do not provide full details on your credit history. If you want to lightly monitor your credit throughout the year, getting access to a free score through one of these services is a great option.  

What is a credit report score based on?

At first glance, the credit score report may appear to be based on arbitrary information. However, the score you see on your report is actually determined using particular details about your credit history. All of the following factors can influence how high or low your credit score is: 

  • The number of accounts you have open. 
  • The overall age of your credit. 
  • Your ratio of debt to available credit. 
  • Whether there are any derogatory marks in your credit history. 
  • Whether you have a history of paying bills on time. 

As you can see, no single factor is responsible for determining your score. Furthermore, each credit reporting bureau uses its own formulas when creating a score for you. In any case, it is important to keep in mind that the information on your credit score report is subject to change from one month to the next.