How to Get Additional Free and Discounted Credit Reports

Your credit report will likely be one of the most important financial records in your life. It plays a major role in your chances of qualifying for top-notch rewards credit cards and loans toward higher education, a car, a new home, and more. Furthermore, the information in your credit report can even determine eligibility for a job, utilities, or property rental.

That’s why the government made it a law that the three major U.S. credit bureaus -- Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion -- must each provide one free credit report per year. It’s a good idea to take advantage of this free access and monitor your credit, which many financially-savvy individuals are doing regularly.

However, what many people don’t know is that they may be eligible for additional credit reports that are also free or discounted (also works for people who do not qualify for a regular free credit report under the federal law). So, U.S. residents in certain states have access to these programs that allow them to keep a closer eye on their credit.


Equifax

Equifax: Free or Reduced Fee Credit Reports

State 1st request Additional requests Time frame
California $8 $8 Calendar year
Colorado Free $8 Calendar year
Connecticut $5 $7.50 12-month
Georgia Free (2 per calendar year) $11.50 Any time
Maine Free $5 12-month
Maryland Free $5 Calendar year
Massachusetts Free $8 Calendar year
Minnesota $3 $11.50 12-month
Montana $8.50 $8.50 Calendar year
New Jersey Free $8 Calendar year
Puerto Rico Free $11.50 Calendar year
Vermont Free $7.50 12-month
Virgin Islands $1 $1 Calendar year

How to request

You can submit a credit report request by phone or mail:

Phone: (866) 349-5191
Mail: Equifax Information Services LLC
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241


Experian

Experian: Free or Reduced Fee Credit Reports

State 1st request Additional requests Time frame
California $8 $8 Calendar year
Colorado Free $8 Calendar year
Connecticut $5 $7.50 12-month
Georgia Free $12 Any time
Maine Free $5 12-month
Maryland Free $5 Calendar year
Massachusetts Free $8 Calendar year
Minnesota $3 $3 12-month
Montana $8.50 $8.50 Calendar year
New Jersey Free $8 Calendar year
Puerto Rico Free $11.50 Calendar year
Vermont Free $7.50 12-month
Virgin Islands $1 $1 Calendar year

How to request

You can submit a credit report request by phone or mail:

Phone: (866) 200-6020
Mail: Experian
PO Box 2002
Allen, TX 75013


TransUnion

TransUnion: Free or Reduced Fee Credit Reports

State 1st request Additional requests Time frame
California $8 $8 Any time
Colorado Free $8 Calendar year
Connecticut $5 $7.50 12-month
Georgia Free Free Any time
Maine Free $5 12-month
Maryland Free $5 12-month
Massachusetts Free $8 Calendar year
Minnesota $3 $3 Any time
Mississippi Free Free Any time
Montana $8.50 $8.50 Any time
New Jersey Free $8 12-month
Puerto Rico Free $11.50 Calendar year
Vermont Free $7.50 12-month
Virgin Islands $1 $1 Any time

How to request

You can submit a credit report request by phone or mail:

Phone: (800) 888-4213
Mail: TransUnion LLC
P.O. Box 1000
Chest, PA 19016


Getting Your Free Credit Reports, Normally

Under the Federal Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (FACT) Act, you are entitled to one free credit report every 12 months from each of the major U.S. credit bureaus. The only place to access them is through AnnualCreditReport.com, a government-sanctioned site.

You can choose to pull all three credit reports at once for a complete picture on your credit. This move is advised for people who are about to apply for a major loan, such as a mortgage for a new home, because a small discrepancy on your credit report can affect your chances of approval or the interest rate on the approved loan.

Otherwise, we recommend that you spread out your free credit reports so that you can keep a watch on your credit throughout the year. This means pulling one credit report every 4 months.

Other Ways to Get Free Credit Reports

The Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act contains additional laws that allow you to get a free credit report under specific circumstances and situations:

  • You were denied or notified of an adverse action related to credit, employment, insurance, government license or other government-granted benefits, or another transaction initiated by you within the last 60 days and your credit report was the basis for the credit decision.
  • You were denied a house or apartment rental or were required to pay a higher deposit than normally required within the last 60 days and your credit report was the basis for the credit decision.
  • You are unemployed and intend to apply for employment within the next 60 days. (One credit report every 12 months.)
  • You are a recipient of public welfare assistance. (One credit report every 12 months.)
  • You have reason to believe that your credit report contains inaccurate information due to fraud.

While this is the law, banks and other agencies don’t always offer someone’s credit report voluntarily when they’ve rejected an applicant based on the report. It is important that you are aware of this right and ask for the credit report that was used to deny your application. The law is designed so that you understand why you weren’t approved. Then, you can take the steps to correct it so that you have a higher chance of success the next time.


The Information Revealed in Your Reports

Your credit reports show your current and past relationships with credit -- for the purpose of determining your likelihood of repaying debt responsibly in the future. In addition to personal information, the following details about your credit are revealed:

Credit accounts

For each existing and past credit line, the following information is logged:

  • Type of account
  • Credit limit
  • Account balance
  • Account payment history
  • Date that the account was open and closed
  • Name of the creditor

Collection items

A collection item is any type of debt that was unpaid as agreed. Common examples include credit card debt and medical debt where lenders may have sold these accounts to debt collection agencies, which try to retrieve all or part of the unpaid debt.

Public records

Public records are entries that have been filed with a local, state, or federal court, often because a creditor took legal action following a major delinquency. These are serious remarks on your credit report that makes you look like a very risky borrower. You absolutely do not want public records on your file.

  • Liens
  • Foreclosures
  • Bankruptcies
  • Civil suits and judgments

Credit inquiries

Credit inquiries are requests for your credit report. For example, this may result from a loan application.

Soft Pull vs. Hard Pull

Credit inquiries (or pulls) come in two forms: hard and soft.

A hard pull often occurs when a person or company request your credit report to aid in the decision of approving a loan or line of credit. This happens every time you submit an application for a new credit card, car loan, mortgage and more. Multiple hard pulls on your credit report is a sign that you’re applying for many loans, which may indicate to lenders that you’re desperate to borrow -- not a great sign.

A soft pull often occurs when you pull your own credit or when existing creditors do a quick check-up on your credit. It may also be triggered for loan pre-approvals, where you’re just asking for a rate quote, but not necessarily putting in an application. These types of credit inquiries don’t lead creditors to think that you’re a borrowing risk.


Not the Same as Credit Scores

Credit reports and credit scores are related, but they are not the same. When you get a credit report, there is no number that represents your creditworthiness.

Credit scores are calculated based on the information in your credit reports. The exact formulas to determine your credit scores are undisclosed to the public. Otherwise, people would be able to cheat the formula.

The credit score used by more than 90% of the major U.S. lenders is the FICO credit score. It has a range of 300 to 850 -- higher is better.

To get your FICO credit score, you can pay for it or access it for free through various methods. To purchase your FICO score, you can visit the myFICO website.

As for free FICO credit scores, there are a couple ways to get them. Firstly, check your existing credit cards to see if they offer the benefit of free FICO scores. These are often updated every month. Another way is to check with certain credit card issuers that provide free FICO score access to anyone, not just cardmembers. Discover and Chase are examples of banks that have such programs.

Note: The credit scores that are sold directly from U.S. credit bureaus are not the same as FICO credit scores. These credit scores use their own formulas and may have different score ranges.

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The Value of a Good Credit Report
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Does Having Too Many Bank Accounts Hurt Your Credit Score?
Free Credit Score Alternatives Through Equifax, Experian, and Transunion

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