Getting my Free Credit Report

This week I remembered that a recent U.S. law allows me to obtain my credit report for free once a year, so I tried it.

The site you use is annualcreditreport.com. You have to provide a good bit of info, including your Social Security number. Then it gives you the option of getting your report from one or all of the three companies they list. I decided to get them all at once because I’m sure I wouldn’t remember to do this more than once a year anyway.

At this point, I was expecting to just receive something in the mail from each of the credit reporting companies, but instead I was able to view the reports online and print them. Unfortunately, they implemented this by making you go to each company’s website and view/print the reports one at a time. Not only did this add to the time involved, but for each company, you had to figure out their unique interface. On each site, you had to authenticate yourself by answering a few questions about your financial situtation. But after that, the experience on each site was pretty different.

  • Equifax: They decided to implement the free credit report as an “item” in their shopping cart/checkout process. Before letting me see my report, they subjected me to a page or two of add-on offers, like selling me my credit score for $5.95. Only after declining these was I able to see the report. They had the most wordy/lengthy credit report, coming out to about 20 pages for mine and my wife’s.
  • Trans Union: Another unpleasant interface. This website made me create a user account with name/password (like I’m going to remember those a year from now) and agree to EULA-style service terms. They also required my email address. Again, I was subjected to an offer to “buy” my credit score. This site had the most concise credit report format, coming out to about 6 pages.
  • Experian: This site was the easiest by far. I answered the financial questions and they took me straight to the report. I noticed later that they had links there to buy my credit score, but at least they were unobtrusive. This report came to 9 pages.

One thing all the reports had in common was to show me how many companies obtained my credit information for the purpose of “promoting” things to me. So that explains all those annoying offers for credit cards, loans, and insurance. Apparently there’s a site to opt-out of this stuff, optoutprescreen.com, but I’m a little leery of trying it. The site doesn’t look that professional, and doesn’t even come up if you leave out the “www”. Their domain information is protected by Domains By Proxy, so I don’t even know who’s running the site. The article on GripeLog doesn’t inspire confidence either.

So I guess if you live in the U.S., you might as well try to get your free credit report, but be prepared to spend some time and hassle in the process.