Get Your Credit Report: Free vs. Fee

Debbie Wilson
LoanBiz Columnist

Article Rating , 4 out of 5 based on 1 votes

By law, you're entitled to one free copy of your credit report annually. But that doesn't mean all credit services are alike. Log on to the wrong one and you may wind up paying for costly credit services that you should receive for free. 

Free Credit Reports

There are three big credit bureaus that offer annual credit reports at no cost to you - Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. These bureaus will honor their credit obligation. You can access and order free credit reports from all three by logging onto Annualcreditreport.com. But be careful. There are a multitude of sites with similar-sounding names that lure you in with credit promises, only to push fee-based services for profit.

Credit Services

What are fee-based credit services and are they worth the cost? Typical services include credit report copies, identity theft insurance, and credit monitoring. They can cost an average of $10-$30 per month. If you're not diligent about protecting and reviewing your credit and credit reports on a regular basis, such a service might be worth the price. But with a little periodic attention, you can use free credit reports to perform the same monthly check-ups on your own.

Credit Review

Since you're entitled to one free credit report from each of the three bureaus, request a copy from a different bureau every four months. Look for mistakes that can affect your credit score, as well as evidence of identity theft. A recent study by the U.S. PIRG (Federation of State Public Interest Research Group) found 25% of credit reports contained serious errors. If you find such an error, it's up to you to contact the bureau and clear it up.

Don't get caught with poor or inaccurate credit. It just may hurt you when you need it most.


About the Author
Debbie Wilson owns and operates a lakeside resort. Her previous experience includes profitability consulting for a national healthcare company. Debbie holds a B.A. in Business Management with a minor in Physical Education.

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