They say there’s no free lunch, but there is a free credit report and a free credit score if you know where to look.

Be careful. Plenty of sources will charge for this information, or use it to lure you into a purchase, but there’s no need to open your wallet.

What’s the difference between a credit report and a credit score?

Your credit report and credit score are separate, but related, entities. Your credit report lists your borrowing and payment history. Your credit score, like the most commonly used FICO® Score, quantifies this information into a three-digit score. Bear in mind that there is not just one credit score. Each credit reporting agency will score your credit history differently depending on the information in your credit report, and your score will likely fluctuate from month to month as you take on or pay off credit.

How do I obtain a free copy of my credit report?

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, consumers are entitled to a free credit report from each of the major credit reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion—every 12 months.1 The easiest way to request your reports is to go to annualcreditreport.com, the only website sponsored by all three national credit reporting agencies for this purpose. You may also request a report by calling (877) 322-8228,2 or by contacting each of the credit bureaus individually—although this will take more time.

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How do I get my free credit score?

There’s no law requiring lenders to provide free credit scores to their customers, unless they’ve been denied credit. But the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been pushing credit card companies and banks to do this and they’ve obliged.3 Chances are, your credit card issuer has a program allowing you to access a credit score. 90% of top lenders use FICO® Credit Scores in their decisions. There are also plenty of websites where your credit score is available for free, but they may not show a FICO® Credit Score.

Why do some credit reports cost money?

You are only entitled to one free credit report every 12 months. That may not be enough in a world of widespread data breaches, identity theft and credit card fraud. Many companies offer services that allow you to pull your credit reports more often, including the credit reporting agencies.

Is my credit report accurate?

Studies over the years have repeatedly shown that when it comes to credit reporting agencies, mistakes happen.4 This is why the federal government mandated free annual credit reports in the first place. It is also why it is imperative to review all three of your credit reports at least once a year. There’s no reason not to do this when it’s free.

Resources:

1. http://www.ftc.gov/faq/consumer-protection/get-my-free-credit-report

2. http://www.consumerfinance.gov/askcfpb/311/how-do-i-get-a-copy-of-my-credit-report.html

3. http://www.bankrate.com/finance/credit-cards/how-to-get-a-free-credit-score-1.aspx

4. http://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2015/01/ftc-issues-follow-study-credit-report-accuracy

Legal Disclaimer: The articles and information provided herein are for informational purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice.

FICO is a registered trademark of the Fair Isaac Corporation in the United States and other countries.

Discover Financial Services and Fair Isaac are not credit repair organizations as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. Discover Financial Services and Fair Isaac do not provide “credit repair” services or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history or credit rating. 

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    Earn big-time cash back that never expires with Discover it. See Rewards
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