Reviewing your credit report regularly is one of the best things you can do to maintain good financial health. AnnualCreditReport.com, which is run by the three major credit bureaus, is the only credit report site approved by the federal government as a place for consumers to get all three credit reports for free.
What is AnnualCreditReport.com?
The Annual Credit Report is officially recognized by both the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Federal Trade Commission (www.FTC.gov).
So, AnnualCreditReport.com is the only site which is obligated by federal law (FCRA-Fair Credit Reporting Act) to provide users with a free annual credit report from:
The website is managed and maintained by Central Source LLC, an Atlanta-based joint venture between the three relevant credit unions.
Annual Credit Report Pros vs. Cons
AnnualCreditReport.com is a totally legitimate site and the only government-approved place to get your credit reports without spending any money. There are a couple drawbacks, but they’re minor compared to the benefits.
The main draw of AnnualCreditReport.com is that it offers a one-stop-shop for getting all three of your credit reports for free. The credit bureaus created the site in response to a federal mandate under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA) of 2003, which gives every consumer the right to receive their credit report from all three bureaus once every 12 months.
The site is an important tool for staying on top of your credit, but it has a couple of downsides. Here is what you need to know.
- No credit score – You won’t get your credit score from AnnualCreditReport.com, as the credit bureaus are only required to provide your credit report. However, you can get your credit score for free by signing up for the Discover Credit Scorecard.
- Imposter sites – This isn’t a knock against AnnualCreditReport.com, but there are several imitator sites that try to get consumers to pay for a report they should be getting for free. Many of these websites have names similar to AnnualCreditReport.com, so it’s important to make sure you’re on the correct site before submitting your personal information.
- 45-day dispute – Ordinarily, federal law gives the credit bureaus 30 days to respond after you dispute information on your credit report. If you file an online dispute through the AnnualCreditReport.com site, however, the bureaus get 45 days.
How to use AnnualCreditReport.com?
All you need to do to get a free copy of your credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com is to provide some personal information when you fill out the free credit report request form.
These details include:
- Date of Birth
- Social Security Number
- Residential Address
This information is merely to confirm you are who you claim to be, to prevent your credit information falling into the wrong hands and opening up a new credit account in your name.
Many people fear giving out their personal information online so as not to fall victim to an identity theft scam, but AnnualCreditReport.com has an outstanding reputation for being dependable and safe.
Upon confirming your identity, AnnualCreditReport.com will lead you to the relevant website of the credit company whose report you wish to view.
In some cases, you may not have an adequate credit trail to confirm the authenticity of your identity on the spot.
If this occurs, you’ll have to wait to receive your credit report by mail rather than being able to view it instantly online.
Other than that, AnnualCreditReport.com doesn’t get much more complicated. There’s no sifting through different price packages and products because the annual credit report is the only service they offer.
If you like to keep things simple, and only need the most basic information on a personal credit score, this service is an excellent choice.
Services offered by AnnualCreditReport.com
As such, the single service that it provides is a free annual credit report from the three primary credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
Although it doesn’t come with the bells and whistles like some other credit monitoring services, it’s tough to argue with the fact that it’s something for nothing.
If you are wondering what is included in the basic free credit score when you sign up for the AnnualCreditReport.com service, it’s surprisingly comprehensive.
You can expect to receive:
- A list of your previous loans
- Current credit limits
- Payment history
- Credit information which falls part of the public record
Should I Use AnnualCreditReport.com?
AnnualCreditReport.com is the perfect option for somebody who wants to get a basic annual snapshot of their credit from year to year.
There are plenty of specialized credit-reporting services, but AnnualCreditReport.com is for you if you prefer to go with a minimalistic approach to monitoring your credit.
You should use this service if you aren’t interested in paying for special features or constant credit monitoring, but also be prepared to go through an online identification process which may not be completely obvious and straightforward the first time around.
If you prefer the extra security net of identity theft insurance, constant monitoring, and a definitive credit score, then AnnualCreditReport.com is not for you.
There are plenty of paid services that offer these specific add-ons, but AnnualCreditReport.com doesn’t have any kind of premium or paid option available.
Avoid this service if you take your credit monitoring seriously and wish to go the extra mile to keep track of your credit.
For what it is, you can’t beat AnnualCreditReport.com. It was mandated by the federal government so that everyone has the resources to check in on their credit annually.
5 Complaints on AnnualCreditReport.com
Despite the best efforts on the part of the federal government and the three reporting agencies to make AnnualCreditReport.com an efficient and easy-to-use tool, there have been some complaints about the system. According to Consumer Affairs and other independent review sources, users of the website have reported problems with the ID verification process and trouble accessing some credit reports. Other complaints include misleading representation of what this service provides. Here are details of some of the most common complaints.
1. Reports are Free, but Credit Scores are Not Included
Users of the system who expect to receive a copy of their credit score along with the free credit report are bound to be disappointed. That’s because the parameters of this government-mandated service do not include the FICO-based credit score that the agencies also compile. Because of this, many users of AnnualCreditReport.com have called it a “scam” that ends up costing them money in the end.
While the reporting agencies do offer the option of paying to get a copy of your credit score, that service is not required. If you want to access your credit score after receiving your free annual credit report — or at any time — you can always do so through FICO’s official website.
But, you may already have access to your credit score for free through a company you’re already doing business with. Before you pay to see your score, check this list of financial institutions and credit card issuers that offer members free FICO scores — accessing your credit score could be as simple as logging into your online banking portal.
2. Users Report Trouble Accessing Experian Report
One of the more common issues reported by consumers involves trouble gaining access to the Experian credit report. While all three agencies occasionally have technical problems that temporarily affect access, Experian seems to garner the most complaints.
One explanation for this anomaly may have to do with the process that each agency follows when you request your report. You see, when you make your request you are directed to the website of the individual companies to complete the process. After that, handling of the request and the verification procedure is entirely in the hands of each organization. Although Experian has not confirmed internal error rates higher than the other two agencies, it is within the realm of possibility that their procedures result in more access errors.
3. Confusing Captcha
Captcha is a service that many websites use to verify human interaction as opposed to access by automated programs or bots. Most of us have come across Captcha images that are difficult to decipher and result in a temporary denial of access to a website. Many of the complaints from users of the AnnualCreditReport.com service list confusing Captcha images as a reason for their dissatisfaction. This is entirely possible, but is also preventable, as any Captcha field can be reloaded or refreshed until a less confusing image appears.
4. You Can Only Access Your Report Every 12 Months
Another commonly listed complaint is the restriction placed upon accessing your free credit report to only once per year. Apparently, some consumers believe this applies to once every calendar year, when in fact, it means one time every 12 months. One easy way around this restriction — and one we highly recommend — is to request a single report from a different agency every four months. In this way, you can access your free report throughout the year, and begin again with agency number one exactly 12 months later.
5. Identification Process Can be Tricky
Since protecting your personal and financial information is of the utmost importance to the credit rating agencies, a sophisticated identity verification process is used when you make your request. It involves questions that are derived from various entries in your credit report such as previous employment, past residences, purchases or transactions made, etc. It is important to realize that some of the questions may result in a “None” or “Does Not Apply” as the correct answer. By carefully reading and answering these questions, most people should have no problem with the identification process.
AnnualCreditReport.com is Not a Scam
While it does have its share of valid (and sometimes not so valid) complaints, AnnualCreditReport.com is, in fact, a legitimate and very useful service. The amount of effort that has gone into developing such a secure, yet usable, website for American consumers is to be commended.
Annual Credit Report Reviews
AnnualCreditReport.com has its share of positive and negative reviews. The majority of negative reviews reference some kind of technical difficulty navigating the website.
Some negative reviewers also say they were denied reports because they couldn’t answer the security questions about their financial history. If you can’t remember details about old accounts, you can still request your free reports through the mail or by phone.
Fast and accurate. I will need to refresh information about my credit history. This site always helped me with this. The process took 5 minutes. I loaded report in pdf format and now I can analyze it. I do not like to enter my private information on the web, but probably this site is secure (but we never know).Viktor of Fair Lawn, NJ
I’ve tried to retrieve my credit reports online, filled the form accurately and no matter what I do it says unable to proceed and to request by phone or mail. No reasoning given or chance to correct any issues.Michael of Commerce Township, MI
Annual Credit Report FAQs
The following are some of the most frequently asked questions and answers about Annual Credit Report.
Is it safe to use Annual Credit Report?
According to AnnualCreditReport.com, it uses encryption to safeguard consumers’ data. Its security policy page states that it encrypts user data when a consumer fills out a credit report request form and also when the site sends user data to any of the national credit reporting agencies.
In addition, consumers must answer security questions before they are granted access to their credit reports. These questions are very specific on purpose, and someone would have to know very detailed information about your accounts and financial history to gain access without your permission.
Is Annual Credit Report.com legit?
AnnualCreditReport.com is a legitimate website and the only site authorized by the federal government to give consumers free access to their credit reports under the FCRA and FACTA.
Which annual credit report is best?
AnnualCreditReport.com gives consumers access to all three credit reports from the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. No single report is better than the others.
In fact, it’s important to check all three reports, as accounts and info that appears on one report might be missing from another. Some creditors only report to one or two credit bureaus, so checking all three of your reports ensures you get a complete picture of your credit profile.
Does Annual Credit Report hurt your credit?
No, requesting your credit reports through AnnualCreditReport.com won’t result in a hard inquiry on your credit and has no impact on your credit score.
What do I get when I request reports?
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 the credit reports that you get from AnnualCreditReport.com.
A credit report is not the same thing as a credit score. Your credit score is derived from 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.
When should I get my reports from AnnualCreditReport.com?
Get all three credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com if you’ve never done so or it’s been at least a year since the last time.
It’s also wise to check them if 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.
And if you’re about to apply for a large loan, such as a mortgage, you should get and check your credit reports. That gives you a chance to fix score-lowering problems before applying, giving you a better shot at approval.
AnnualCreditReport.com Customer Service: Number, Address
- Address: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
- Phone Number: No phone number is listed on their website.
- Website: www.annualcreditreport.com
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