The FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) instructs all three credit bureaus that they must provide every American consumer a right to receive a free copy of their credit report annually. But, as the saying goes, “When getting free honey, you may get stung too”. So here in this post, I will go through how and when to request your free annual report. I will also explain when to make sure you don’t get ‘stung’.
How to Request a Free Copy of Your Annual Credit Report
The three credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax, Transunion have set up together, a one-stop-shop where you can request your annual free credit report from all three bureaus. You can request the report in a choice of three ways:
- Online: Visit annualcreditreport.com and fill out the form found there.
- Phone: Call 1-877-322-8228 and follow the prompts.
- Mail: Mail a letter to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
I usually recommend ordering your reports from each credit bureau at separate times throughout the year. Like this, you will have a chance to look through your information every few months instead of ordering them all at the same time.
Beware! Read This Before Ordering a Free Copy of Your Report
When sending in a dispute to a credit bureau, the FCRA states that the credit bureau must complete the investigation within 30 days of when they receive the dispute letter. But here is the ‘sting’! At the time the FCRA did you a favor by giving you the right to receive a copy of your credit report; they also gave the credit bureaus a ‘treat’. The FCRA states that if the consumer ordered a free copy of the credit report before the dispute, then the credit bureaus have 45 days to complete the investigation!
If you’re not planning to dispute anything on your report or you don’t care if the dispute will take longer to complete, then go ahead and take advantage of your right and request a free annual copy of your credit report. But if you’re going to apply for a mortgage or a job, or if you want to get your credit report corrected as soon as possible, then rather pay for a copy by going directly to all three credit bureaus.