At NerdWallet, we strive to help you make financial decisions with confidence. To do this, many or all of the products featured here are from our partners. However, this doesn’t influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.
Federal law lets you get a free credit report at least once every 12 months from the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Using the government-mandated AnnualCreditReport.com website is the quickest way, but you can also request them by phone or mail.
In between those annual checks, it's wise to watch your credit for changes to guard against errors and identity theft. NerdWallet offers a free credit report and credit score you can check whenever you like, and your information is updated weekly.
Here’s how, when and why to use AnnualCreditReport.com.
1. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com
First, make sure you’re on the right site; some have similar-sounding names. The one you want looks like this:
2. Enter your personal information
You'll need your name, Social Security number, address and birthdate. This, along with other personal data, will be matched against files for identification.
3. Request a credit report or reports
You can order your reports from one, two or all three of the major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
4. Successfully answer security questions
For each report request, you’ll be asked a few questions about your finances that presumably only you can answer — for instance, the approximate amount of your mortgage payment or who holds your auto loan and when you took it out.
Some consumers have reported difficulty using the site, particularly answering security questions about accounts that are several years old. If you can’t recall those details, you can request your reports by mail or phone; this process doesn’t require security questions.
5. Generate your credit report online
You can save reports to your desktop or print them out so you’ll have access later.
If you need to request a report or reports by mail, send a request form to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service P.O. Box 105281 Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
Your report or reports should be sent within 15 business days.
You can also get your credit reports by calling 877-322-8228. Visually impaired consumers can also call this number to request audio, large-print or Braille reports.
6. Monitor your credit regularly
It’s smart to check all three reports at least annually, because they may have slightly different data. Changes you don’t expect or did not authorize can tip you off to a mistake or to identity theft, so checking even more often can be smart.
After you’ve taken advantage of your annual freebies, use a personal finance site for frequent, ongoing credit monitoring.
Monitoring your scores and reports can tip you off to problems such as an overlooked payment or identity theft. It also lets you track progress on building your credit. NerdWallet offers both a free credit report summary and a credit score, updated weekly.
Here’s how the information you’ll get from AnnualCreditReport.com differs from what free personal finance sites may provide:
Reports (not scores)
One free report per 12-month period
Data from all three major credit bureaus
An extensive history of your credit use
Personal finance websites, including NerdWallet, provide:
Credit scores but not full reports
Data from one or two credit bureaus
A recent history of your credit use