How to Obtain an Annual Credit Report for Free

by Bill on July 12, 2011

Federal law requires the three main credit reporting agencies provide a free credit report upon request once a year. You can view your free annual credit report both online and offline.

Why do this? Your credit report is what is used to determine if you are a worthy risk for a loan, housing or in some careers of being an employee. Utility companies use it to know if you will need a security deposit before getting service. If your identity is stolen or misused, you could be liable for any damages or lawsuits resulting from the act. If you’re married, the credit history of your spouse can affect your history. Mistakes and past delinquencies can remain on your report unless you take steps to correct the problem. Tracking your credit history will help you with a variety of tasks including identity theft; knowing your credit score; knowing who looks at your file, why they looked at your file and financial planning. Getting a free copy of your credit report annually can help you with knowledge and the ability to correct any problems.

Start off by going here. This is a site set up by the three main credit-reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion in conjunction with the United States government. This is the ONLY site that provides a free credit report without any strings attached. Fair warning though – you can only get one report every 12 months from each of the reporting agencies.

Select your state of residence from the drop down menu and then click the button requesting your credit report. Fill in the form on the next page, which helps the credit agencies find you. I recommend that you elect to have only the last four digits of your social security number visible for security reasons.

Click on one credit agency to visit and proceed to the next page by clicking “continue”. Choose to continue or not. Make note that at the top of each page after this will appear the toolbar for returning to the Annual Credit Report website.

Each credit agency has a slightly different method or form to fill out. Here’s how you get each one. You don’t need to go online to do this either. I’ll give you the offline method then the method for obtaining the report via each online page. Either way you get a comprehensive file with lots of pages that go back at least seven years or more.

This is the original method of gaining the free credit report as the system was in place well before the Internet made it possible to do all this online. Be warned, the report takes up to two weeks to arrive should you go this route.

Scroll down to the bottom of the page of to find the links for both phone and regular mail.

Follow along with the phone prompts to enter information

Download or print the form and fill it out. There is a central address to send to for all three reports.

Fill out the information requested on the first page of the site. Click “Continue.”

Accept or reject the Terms Of Use to continue.

Select the option of being reminded when it is time to reorder your credit history next year. Enter your email here and click “yes.” Accept the Terms of Use on the next page to continue. Use the page after this to order your credit score if you choose. There is a fee for this. If you do not want to pay for the credit score, go to the bottom of the page, click “no” and continue. Click “next” on the following page. This is the order screen where it will show a total of zero for the free annual credit report.

Get free monitoring software on this next page. If you choose not to, click “no” and continue. View and print out your free annual credit report.

Click on the toolbar at the top of the page to return to the Annual Credit Report site.

Equifax is a bit simpler to work with.

Check the information on the first page. If this information is correct, click “next” and continue. If not, correct the information and then continue. Make sure all of the information is accurate on this page before going forward. Check the information provided on the next page and respond accordingly. This is how they ensure accuracy. After this, click “continue” to go on.

Use the next page to obtain your credit score for a fee. If you choose not to, click “no” and continue.

Click “continue” on the next page to get the annual credit report from Equifax for free.

Use the toolbar at the top of the page to return to the Annual Credit Report site.

These guys have the least amount of instructions.

Enter the last four digits of your social security number on the first page and click “continue”. Accept or reject the offer for the credit score information on the next page.

Tick the box to accept the Terms of Use and then click “submit” to continue on this next page. Follow along through the page to verify information and continue on.

View or print your credit report on the last page.

Free annual credit report []

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