"Free" Credit Reports That Aren't Really Free

Photo: Alex012

Many websites advertise that they allow you to check your credit report and/or credit score for free. But there's a catch: many of these "free" reports and scores actually cost money. Take a look at a few of these websites to see what they really charge in my Financial Edge article for Investopedia, Free Credit Reports and Credit Scores That Aren't Free.

If you want a truly free credit report, you do have a few options.

The FACT Act entitles consumers to one free credit report per 12 month period from each of the three credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). The only website that really allows you to get your credit report for free with no strings attached is www.annualcreditreport.com. To get your credit score, you’ll still have to pay.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, if you receive an adverse action notice based on data in your credit report, you are entitled to a free credit report from the credit bureau whose file the decision was based on. You must request the report within 60 days of receiving the notice. If you are denied credit, insurance, employment, an apartment, utility service, a government license or a government benefit, you are eligible to receive the report. People who are unemployed and plan to seek employment within 60 days, who are on welfare, or who believe their credit files are inaccurate due to fraud are also entitled to free reports.

If you request a free score for any of these reasons, you’ll have to fill out a form that states, for example, which company denied you credit or the name and contact information for your former employer.

Finally, residents of 13 states can get free or reduced-cost credit reports. These states are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, Vermont, and Virginia. Check out the discounts here.

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