How to Get a Free Credit Report
Enroll with MyCredit Guide to get a free monthly credit report that you can access at any time or you can request a copy of your credit report from 3 credit bureaus once a year.
By Anna Davies | American Express Credit Intel Freelance Contributor
4 Min Read | May 11, 2020 in Credit Score
Every American is entitled to one free annual credit report from each credit bureau.
Some credit knowledge services like MyCredit Guide also allow users to regularly view their credit report.
Reviewing your free credit report can help you report errors and see how your credit behavior is reported.
Your credit affects multiple aspects of your life, from housing to employment. That’s why it’s important to understand your credit score, as well as understand what’s on your credit report. When you have a handle on your credit report, you can take steps to fix any errors, strengthen your report, and potentially bolster your credit score in the future. But the first step is making the decision to access your credit report.
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires, by law, the three nationwide credit reporting bureaus—Transunion, Equifax, Experian—to each make available a free of charge credit report to you every year.1 But even though you have a right to a free credit report, many online companies charge for information that includes access to your credit report. That’s why it’s key to make sure you use a provider that offers free credit reports without any fees attached.
MyCredit Guide gives you free access to your monthly TransUnion credit report, in addition to services that allow you to view your credit score, build credit report alerts to protect your credit accounts from fraud and identity theft, and see what you can do to improve your credit score.
Sometimes, companies that have a fee associated with credit report access offer additional services and benefits, such as credit monitoring. But your bank or credit card may also offer free credit reports, with the same services.
American Express offers a free monthly Transunion Credit Report through MyCredit Guide, even if you’re not an American Express customer. MyCredit Guide also features benefits such as a credit score simulator and credit report alerts to make credit monitoring simple. Finding a free option to request a credit report is a smart strategy.
Put simply, a credit report is one-way lenders assess your history as a borrower. Your credit report has several categories of information, which are reported to credit bureaus by lenders. Lenders may not necessarily report to all three companies, so there may be some discrepancies between the credit reports from the three credit bureaus. Your credit reports may also differ depending on when lenders file information to the bureaus.
Your credit report includes:
- Personal information. This information may include former names, addresses, employers, and any public records, such as bankruptcy declarations.
- Current and past loans. Your credit report will include companies that may have extended loans to you, loan amounts or payment history.
- Credit history. Your credit report will show a history of your credit, even if loans have been paid off or discharged.
- Credit inquiries. If you’ve applied for a credit card or loan in the past two years, these will appear on your credit report, even if the application was denied.
- Bankruptcies, settlements, and delinquencies. Late payments, debt settlements, and bankruptcies will be included on your report: often for as long as ten years.
In short, your credit report is a snapshot of your financial history—and can be a way for a lender to assess how risky it would be to take you on as a borrower. A short credit history, a credit report with late payments or bankruptcy, or a lot of credit inquiries in a short time may be a red flag to lenders.
While a credit report is a tool to help assess your creditworthiness, it’s also a good idea to look at your credit report regularly. Here’s why it’s smart to check your credit report.
- Protect against identity theft
Regularly scanning your credit report is one way to ensure that no accounts have been opened with your personal information. To safeguard your identity even further, consider signing up for a credit monitoring service as well.
- Correct any errors
Sometimes, credit reports contain errors. This could be an erroneous name, address, or account information. If you do see an error on your credit report, you can submit an investigation request. The credit bureau will investigate, issue your results, and may update your credit report accordingly. Removal of errors can also immediately increase your credit score.
- Understand your financial status
Your credit report, along with your credit score, may be used by landlords, lenders, and even employers in certain states. By regularly looking at your credit report, you can understand what loan and credit card offers will be made available to you.
- Add context to your credit history
If there is something that could be considered a black mark on your credit report—such as a bankruptcy filing or debt settlement—you can attach a 100-word explanation to your report that details the circumstances surrounding the incident.
- To see patterns and make future plans
Your credit report can be a valuable resource to see any financial habits you may have fallen into, letting you build a plan for the future. For example, if you have open credit lines across multiple cards, you may wish to make a debt consolidation plan to pay off high-interest debt. If you have a history of late payments, you may need to come up with a better budgeting strategy to ensure you can pay the bills on time.
MyCredit Guide, from American Express, offers a free monthly credit report from TransUnion. This is available to customers and non-customers of American Express. In addition, My Credit Guide features benefits such as:
- View of your credit score. Like your credit report, a credit score provides a snapshot of your financial picture. Updated monthly, it’s a good idea to regularly check your credit score and take action if you see any unexpected changes. Accessing your own credit score will not affect your credit score.
- Credit report alerts. You will get an alert if any new accounts are reported to TransUnion, so you can quickly take action if any unauthorized accounts are open in your name.
- Credit score simulator. A credit score simulator allows you to see how your credit score will be affected by different scenarios, such as paying down debt or opening a new credit line.
At the end of the day, knowledge is power. Accessing your free credit report is a smart strategy for taking control of your financial story.