A Credit Card Required for a Free Credit Report?
Copyright 2006 Richard Keir
Millions of Americans have sought and received a free credit report
under the FACT Act amendments to the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
While there are a ton of online sites offering 'free' credit reports,
there are really only three major credit reporting companies: Equifax,
Experian (which used to be TRW) and TransUnion.
If you go to one of their sites ( www.experian.com, www.equifax.com,
www.transunion.com ). You'll quickly discover that the "free" report
they offer directly requires you to sign up, using a credit card,
for a monthly service.
These monthly services offer you thirty days free - but you absolutely
must remember to cancel your membership before the 30 days end or
you will be charged.
Each site also contains information about how to obtain an actual
free report. This information, which is basically identical on all
three sites, states the following: Under Federal law, you have the
right to receive a free copy of your credit report once every 12
months from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies.
To request your free annual report under that law, go to www.annualcreditreport.com.
I thought that was very interesting and went to check out the process.
Oddly enough when I went to that site, I got an error page and the
"The page cannot be found
The page you are looking for might have been removed, had its name
changed, or is temporarily unavailable."
This is not a default server/browser error page. The URL for it
I went and checked Google and their last saved copy of the 'real'
page was from April 28, 2006. I was unable to find any indication
of why the page has been removed, but at least at the moment you
have no access to this page despite the fact that it is essentially
mandated by Federal law.
Of course, I'm not a lawyer and it's not entirely
clear to me exactly what agreements underlie the creation of this
site, but the Federal Trade Commission pages link to this site.
Somebody created that notfound.htm and it seems to me they really
should have provided an explanation of why our access to the real
free online credit reports is being denied - even if it is just
The following information is part of what was on that site according
to the copy stored on Google from 04/28/2006:
You may request your free credit report online, by phone or through
the mail. Free credit reports requested online are viewable immediately
upon authentication of identity. Free credit reports requested by
phone or mail will be processed within 15 days of receiving your
This central site allows you to request a free credit file disclosure,
commonly called a credit report, once every 12 months from each
of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies: Equifax,
Experian and TransUnion.
AnnualCreditReport.com is the official site to help consumers to
obtain their free credit report."
Now that would all be very nice - if it were accessible. Hopefully
it will have become accessible again by the time you are reading
If not, here is the information from the FTC on how to get your
free credit report:
"You can order your free annual credit report online at annualcreditreport.com,
by calling 1-877-322-8228, or by completing the Annual Credit Report
Request Form and mailing it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service,
P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. When you order, you need
to provide your name, address, Social Security number, and date
of birth. To verify your identity, you may need to provide some
information that only you would know, like the amount of your monthly
While supposedly you can request a free report on the companies
websites, I failed to find a way to do that without signing up for
their monthly service and then canceling before the free 30 days
were over. You could try calling them, however, to request a free
Experian at 888-397-3742, Equifax at 1-800-685-1111 or TransUnion
Using annualcreditreport.com or mailing an Annual Credit Report
Request Form to the Annual Credit Report Request Service, you can
request reports from one or all three credit reporting companies.
With any other 'free' option for accessing your credit reports,
you need to sign up with all three companies or pay for an additional
service that will provide all three reports.
this page at the FTC for more information and a link to a PDF
copy of the annual request form which you can download, print and
If you're in a hurry and need your report fast, your best bet will
be to go directly to one (or all) of the 3 sites above and go ahead
and sign-up. You will need to give them a credit card and more personal
information than you might like, but they no doubt have much more
extensive information about you on file already. Going to any other
site (than one of these three) means you will be sharing your information
in places you really don't need to. You also potentially could end
up on a fraudulent or imposter site.
When you go to a site use a valid link from the FTC or type the
address in yourself. When you arrive, verify the address. Identity
theft does happen so the extra effort involved in being sure about
what you're doing is critically important.
If, for some reason, you need to track your credit reporting history
closely, you could request your free reports individually, spreading
your requests over the year. While the information may vary from
one company to another, spreading out the requests does give you
the ability to check more frequently without having to buy reports
or maintain a membership at one or more of the credit reporting
An excellent beginning point is to read the full FTC publication
Access to Free Credit Reports".
So, no, you don't need a credit card to get your free credit report.
However, as I write this, it's not possible to do it online without
a credit card. The annualcreditreport.com website should eventually
be up and operating again, sometime, so before you pay or use a
credit card to get a free report, check that site and see if it's
back in business. And while it's a little more time consuming and
you'll need to wait to receive your reports, you can always use
the mail or call (1-877-322-8228) to get your free reports from
the Annual Credit Report Request Service.
Be smart, don't pay for something you don't need. If you signup
for a 30 day free membership to get your free report, cancel it
as soon as you have your report. These companies are required by
law to provide a free annual credit report. But, on their own websites,
they're smart enough to offer the free report as bait for a membership.
This lets them squeeze some extra bucks out of a legal requirement
when people forget to cancel within the 30 days limit. Plus they
also offer a variety of other, more expensive, credit report plans
that sound enticing but which very very few people really need.
Manage My Credit -
a website devoted to providing advice on managing your credit and debt