Free Annual Credit Reports
December 1, 2004 9:44 AM   Subscribe

Free Annual Credit Reports
The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 goes in to effect today. One of the major provisions of the bill, is that consumers now have the right to one free report from each of the three major credit bureaus every 12 months. [more inside]
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood (37 comments total)
Consumers in 13 Western states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming) may request a free annual credit report from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion beginning today, December 1.

Consumers in the Midwestern states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin) can order their free reports beginning March 1, 2005.

Consumers in the Southern states (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas) can order their free reports beginning June 1, 2005.

Consumers in the Eastern states (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia), the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and all U.S. territories can order their free reports beginning September 1, 2005.

Most importantly two things:
  1. The Federal Trade Commission and the three bureaus have set up one website and one hotline to call: & 877-322-8228. is the only Web site from which consumers are legally entitled to receive a free annual credit report. If you go to Equifax's, Experian's, or TransUnion's website, they can and will charge you.
  2. Your "credit score" in not included in this legislation, and if you want that you will have to pay the bureaus for it.
More information can be found here: posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 9:46 AM on December 1, 2004

Thanks for pulling all of that info together.
posted by COBRA! at 9:48 AM on December 1, 2004

For some odd reason the site says:

"For security purposes, cannot be accessed from the referring website."

when you follow the link. It does not like as a referral, but just hit refresh and it does load.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 9:48 AM on December 1, 2004

This is great, thanks. For once I'm glad to live in Wyoming.
posted by dual_action at 9:54 AM on December 1, 2004

I gotta wait 9 mos cuz I'm in the northeast?
The bill passed into law in 2003.
Did it take TRW, Equifax and their slimey ilk that long to offer their services in a limited roll out to the usurous credit vultures who's business they court?
This reaks of corporate legislative felatio.
posted by Fupped Duck at 9:55 AM on December 1, 2004

I got that too, Steve_at_Linnwood-- but here's the kicker: if you put your cursor on the location bar of your browser and hit enter, you're in. Bizarro security.

This is excellent news though. I'd encourage everyone to do this so you can be shocked at how many unused but open credit card accounts you have.
posted by mcstayinskool at 9:56 AM on December 1, 2004

This really is a simple and spectacular idea. I'm glad this finally has gotten done to make information access easier, especially access to your own information. And a great post as well, Steve. I didn't hear about this when it passed, I'm glad that congress in the last two years has accomplished some good.
posted by Arch Stanton at 9:56 AM on December 1, 2004

...And lest you think of credit reporting, like insurance, as a necessary evil, consider the fact that credit reporting is prohibited in France as a violation of personal privacy.
Their real estate/mortgage industries are doing fine without.
posted by Fupped Duck at 9:58 AM on December 1, 2004

I just rented my first apartment about six weeks ago, so they did the credit check for me (at their expense) to validate my application. I'm not sure what the numbers meant, but they told me my rating was excellent, so I guess I just need to make sure I pay all my bills on time and I can continue to assume I have a good credit rating.

I guess I'm just curious how often people need a credit report when it's not something a seperate entity would be requesting.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:58 AM on December 1, 2004

Not self moderating here or anything, but I just wanted to add that I used to work in the credit approval and processing department of a major department store chain. So I used to look at hundreds of credit reports everyday, and you would find it difficult to believe the stuff that is in some of them (huge amounts of lines of credit the person doesn't know they have, things that are out of date, misspelled names, wrong social security numbers, etc).

I can not urge everyone strongly enough to take advantage of this and have their credit reports pulled at least every year.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 10:01 AM on December 1, 2004

Figures us blue-staters would get the short end of the stick on this one. Sept. 1, 2005 indeed.
posted by DenOfSizer at 10:04 AM on December 1, 2004

I've bought a credit report two times. First when I was about to buy a car, second when I was about to buy a house. Helped me out-muscle the bank negotiators as I already knew what I was made of. Definitely helped with my car, for sure, "Ohhhh sir we can't offer you that, why, your credit" "My credit is awesome" "[blink] Aha.. well yes, there is that"

Having said that an annual report would be quite useful for identity theft. Think about it, somebody fakes your info and opens up 5 dead accounts. Much higher odds of getting wind of this through a yearly check then when the collections people come a runnin..

on preview: what Steve said, thanks Steve!

Even without theft, I had one erroneous entry (a sibling's CC was listed in my name as well) that Equifax maintained. Knowing how !#)%(!% my sibling is, I was harassing people that day to get that fixed.

posted by cavalier at 10:04 AM on December 1, 2004

You don't have to request reports from each of the 3 providers at the same time. If you stagger them, you can check to make sure something fishy isn't going on every 4 months. You can only request one from each, each year though.

I checked mine yesterday. Once the infrastructure is in place, it's totally automated. We should be able to check our own reports every month, or whenever the urge strikes. I guess once a year is a start though.
posted by willnot at 10:17 AM on December 1, 2004

Residents of Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Vermont are ALREADY entitled by state law to one free report from a credit reporting agency per year. Residents of Georgia are entitled to two reports each year.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:17 AM on December 1, 2004

One concern I have: Doesn't it ding your credit to even check it?
posted by shawnj at 10:25 AM on December 1, 2004

Currently in Connecticut you could get a credit report for $5, other states similar (or free already, as mentioned). Free nationwide can only be a good thing.

Great post, Steve -- thanks!
posted by isotope at 10:29 AM on December 1, 2004

Doesn't it ding your credit to even check it?

No. You pulling your own credit report does not lower the score. On the other hand, having your report pulled by a number of lenders in a short amount of time (i.e. going to every store in the mall and applying for a store credit card) can not only lower your score, but is a red flag for fraud when someone is reviewing your report.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 10:30 AM on December 1, 2004

Just got mine back:

Dear Mr. Skomsvold:
*deep breath*

Ya, it's bad.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 10:34 AM on December 1, 2004

Thanks for posting this S@L! Very useful. I knew about the law, but would have gone directly to Equifax to check my score -- I'd then have been charged and grown very frustrated. You saved me time and money! For that, you're good people.

Quick question. Now that I have my report, is there a way I can guestimate my FICO score based on the info I have? Also, is there a difference on your credit rating between having a credit card closed, and having one closed "at the customers request"? All of my credit cards have been closed at my request, but not all closed accounts reflect that -- is it worth the effort to have this corrected?
posted by herc at 10:53 AM on December 1, 2004

Ya, it's bad.

Make your credit worthless so no one steals it.

Good plan.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:57 AM on December 1, 2004

In the state of Massachusetts, residents have the right to a free credit report yearly from each CRA. Every year around Thanksgiving, I get mine sent to me. Every year it shocks me to find new things that are wrong on my credit report and old things that were not resolved despite lengthy disputes. I second Steve's sentiment. Get your credit reports sent to you once a year. Read every last character on the reports. Go through the dispute process, it's mostly painless with responsible creditors.

One thing that I should mention, applying for credit does not affect your credit score negatively if you are granted credit. Creditors may judge a credit application spree, even if they are all approved, as questionable or fraudulent. Your score should go up as long as you are approved. When your application is denied, your credit score is lowered by 10 points, at least with Experian. There are two types of credit checks, one that is publically viewable and one that is not. Publically viewed credit checks can effect your score. Creditors and other authorized organizations may check your score privately, even without your knowledge or permission. These do not affect your score.

If you do not want marketing from the CRA or third parties, like banks and credit card companies, you should go through the process of opting out. CRAs are the primary source for my junk mail.
posted by sequential at 10:58 AM on December 1, 2004

It's been a little while since I checked my report, so I'm planning to get on the stick.... but I do remember it being pretty dense and somewhat unintelligible. Dovetailing with herc's questions, does anyone know of a good guide to interpreting the reports? How do you know what's worth doing something about, what the various codes mean, etc.?
posted by nickmark at 11:05 AM on December 1, 2004

A parallel discussion is taking place right now on Monkeyfilter, about the difficulty young people face these days in getting through college, and the first few years after college, without racking up some serious debt.

I'm finally out from under credit card debt I started racking up a decade ago, and still chipping away at grad school loans. Looks like I will be for at least the next decade.

And, oooo-howdy, is my credit report a mess.
posted by owenville at 11:19 AM on December 1, 2004

Weird, it just sort of redirects you to equifax for a freebie, which I upselled to see my FICO gain in the last year (if you're over 30, you understand FICO score comparisons are the new dick length contests).

I had a buttload of inquiries from annoying companies plunging for my address to send marketing info, is there any way to avoid that? I hate credit-related junk mail.
posted by mathowie at 11:21 AM on December 1, 2004

Heh. Looks like Monkeyfilter linked to your FPP while I was over here, Steve.

This is obviously a topic near and dear to people's hearts. Or wallets.
posted by owenville at 11:23 AM on December 1, 2004

Question: will this law mandate them to release your fico score as well as your history or is that still considered proprietary?
posted by Fupped Duck at 11:30 AM on December 1, 2004

If by "fico score" you mean "credit score" then no. You still have to pay the bureaus for that information.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 11:36 AM on December 1, 2004

Anyone catch Frontline's piece on credit cards? It's a good supplement to this and MoFi discussion. Wait til you hear about 'universal default.'
posted by ao4047 at 11:43 AM on December 1, 2004

Your FICO scores are not considered a part of your credit report. Every CRA makes you pay for them, though various banks and credit card companies allow you to see your FICO score with one of the three major CRAs for free when you manage your account online. Bank of America does not, but Providan does.

You can use one of the CRA spin offs like CreditInform (Equifax) or CreditExpert (Experian) to get a combo report with your score, but you should know FICO scores vary from CRA to CRA. This is because each CRA is likely to have a unique set of data in the report, though there is significant overlap. Things that appear with negative information on Experian and Equifax on my report appear as in good standing with Transunion. Experian has a great deal more data from more creditors than the other two combined. Additionally, your FICO score is calculated differently by each CRA. (1)

Steve, I believe CRAs use FICO and credit score interchangably. FICO just refers to the common historical routes of the method for determining an individuals credit worthiness. See the link above.

You can try entering information as it appears on your credit report into the FICO score estimator. The scoring method is probably a traditional FICO calculation, resembling but not the same as the one CRAs use.
posted by sequential at 11:44 AM on December 1, 2004

Make your credit worthless so no one steals it.
Good plan.

Actually that was the plan back in the old carefree days but since age 35 I've been able to recover nicely (house, blah, blah, blah). The FICO ruled my life for four years as I tried to repair my history. So far, so good.

Sequential: When I bought a house, my FICO was the nearly the same across the three credit reporting bureaus. It seems to me at least, that they all had a bead on me.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 11:54 AM on December 1, 2004

Message from the NSAPI plugin:

No backend server available for connection: timed out after 10 seconds.

Experian, Equifax and TransUnion are all broken at present.

You'd think they would have planned for this. Ah well -- wait a few days for the rush to subside.
posted by ladd at 12:01 PM on December 1, 2004

FYI, I am a resident of Colorado and was able to retrieve all of my credit reports through the system just now.
posted by reflection at 12:03 PM on December 1, 2004

TransUnion finally went through for this Oregon resident. Experian and Equifax are still throwing various error messages.
posted by ladd at 12:34 PM on December 1, 2004

I just got through with Experian, though it took quite a bit of clicking back to make it work. The great news is that even though I've been late on some bills, nobody has reported it! It's especially exciting because I may buy an apartment next year. w00t!
posted by cali at 2:02 PM on December 1, 2004

I had a buttload of inquiries from annoying companies plunging for my address to send marketing info, is there any way to avoid that? I hate credit-related junk mail.

Yes. Call 888-5-OPT-OUT and you can opt out of pre-screened credit offers that get your info from the CRAs. You can either opt out for a period of five years or permanently. If you don't want to give such info out over the phone, the FTC has info on opting out via snail mail.
posted by zsazsa at 2:17 PM on December 1, 2004

S@L: Thanks for the post! I just discovered that my name is misspelled in my credit history.

ladd: Equifax worked for me from Oregon.
posted by turbodog at 2:20 PM on December 1, 2004

I'm a total credit nerd. If any of you really want to learn some of the nitty gritty of how this all works, and how to max your Fico score visit these discussion boards. These are a people obsessed.
posted by glenwood at 6:24 AM on December 2, 2004

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