How to Use

Consumers can get free weekly credit reports from the credit bureaus to monitor their credit standing.

Bev O'SheaMay 18, 2020
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Federal law gives you free access to your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Using the government-mandated website is the quickest way, but you can also request them by phone or mail. Until April 2021, those reports — which had been limited to once a year — will be available weekly to help consumers manage their finances.

It's always been wise to watch your credit for changes to guard against errors and identity theft. Now, having weekly checks available will also help consumers who have COVID-19-related payment modifications make sure those are being reported correctly.

Your credit reports are a detailed record of your past use of credit — but they do not include your credit score. NerdWallet offers a free credit score, updated weekly, along with a view of your credit report from TransUnion. Checking your score does not damage your credit.

Here’s how to use

NerdWallet Guide to COVID-19

Get answers to questions about your mortgage, travel, finances — and maintaining your peace of mind.

1. Go to the correct site

First, make sure you’re on the right site: Some other sites have similar-sounding names. The one you want looks like this:

annual credit report

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.

No-hassle credit report

Your latest credit data, including score, at your fingertips. Hear about changes, get expert tips.

6. Monitor your credit regularly

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 differs from what free personal finance sites may provide: provides:

  • Reports (not scores)

  • Data from all three major credit bureaus

  • An extensive history of your credit use

Personal finance websites, including NerdWallet, provide:

  • Credit scores, sometimes credit report information

  • Unlimited access

  • Data from one or two credit bureaus

  • A recent history of your credit use

  • Additional information about building and protecting your credit

Your creditors regularly report your account information, including payments, credit applications, the percentage of available credit you’re using and negative marks such as collections. The three bureaus build that data into reports that you can get from

It is not the same thing as a credit score. A credit score is derived from a formula using some of the information in your credit reports.

If you used the online portal to access your reports, we suggest saving them as PDFs or printing them out. Once you have them, read over them for mistakes.

Be on the lookout for:

  • Accounts that aren’t yours or you didn’t authorize

  • Incorrect, negative information

  • Negative information that’s too old to be included. Most information, other than one type of bankruptcy, falls off after seven years.

These errors have the potential to hurt your credit score, says Chi Chi Wu, a staff attorney with the National Consumer Law Center. You might see other types of errors, such as out-of-date employment information, she says, but those aren’t factored into your score.

If you find errors, dispute them. The credit bureaus will investigate and must remove information that they can’t verify.

Get all three credit reports from if:

  • You’ve never done so before

  • It’s been at least a year since you’ve done so

  • You've received payment modifications or other relief, such as offered during the pandemic, and need to see whether creditors are reporting those accounts correctly.

  • You’re about to apply for a large loan, such as a mortgage

Your credit reports are free, but credit bureaus also use the site to sell credit scores and promote paid services, such as credit monitoring.

“Just get your free credit report. Don’t get suckered by the upsell,” says Ed Mierzwinski, consumer program director for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

Mierzwinski adds that credit monitoring doesn’t keep your identity from being stolen; it just alerts you after the fact.

For a higher level of protection, both Mierzwinski and Wu recommend a credit freeze. You won’t be able to apply for credit on impulse, such as opening a store card to save instantly on purchases, but no one else can open credit in your name, either. You might also consider protecting your information with a fraud alert.

Federal law entitles you to additional free reports from the bureaus in some instances:

  • You get turned down for credit, insurance or a job because of your credit, or face less favorable terms, such as a higher interest rate. You’ll receive an adverse action notice and the chance to apply for reports.

  • You place a fraud alert on your credit.

  • You’re unemployed and job-seeking, or are on public assistance.

Make the requests to the bureaus directly in these cases.

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