There are lots of places that claim to give you a free credit report online. Unfortunately, there’s two major problems with most sites. Many – are not actually free. And many others are not actually your credit report. So how do you sort through this world of phony reports – stick to these resources:

Top Places to get your Free Credit Report Online

  • Annual Credit Report. As a federal law, you’re entitled to one free report per year.  You can find out more here. Because the industry is so laden with others pretending to offer free reports even the government has recommended Annual Credit Report (you can read the FTC judgement yourself on required disclosure for credit-report disclosure).

Top Places that pretend to be Free (these are scams)

  • Experian. As one of the largest credit reporting agencies, you might expect an easy way to get a free credit report online. Not the case, the site is littered with expensive credit card monitoring services, the promise of a $1.00 report, and other products you don’t need.
  • As one of the largest marketers for credit reports you’d expect them NOT to be free (who can afford a TV campaign giving away free reports). They have a 1 star review from the consumer affairs department littered with complaints. Of course, because they spent a ton of marketing dollars on prime-time TV commercials they do have a lot of name recognition.

Top Places that pretend to be your Credit Report (these are not scams, but slightly misleading)

A lot of places are NOT actually gathering your FICO score. These credit monitoring services may gather one-time information or proxy information, then continue to adjust your bureau score up or down, but are not actually free credit reports that are 100% up to date.

  • Credit Karma: Credit Karma offers a free “VantageScore 3.0” credit scores. This is not a true FICO from the independent agencies but rather a more modern “proxy score” based on an average of multiple reporting bureaus. While the ranges seem to be accurate, for some lending cases those few points can make the difference between one loan and another.
  • Capital One: Capital One also offers a credit score through creditwise. This reporting system also uses the “VantageScore 3.0” system rather than more traditional FICO.

Despite using a different scoring system, these VantageScore platforms can still be useful directional monitoring tools. Their score may not 100% map to the loan you get, but if you’re working to change your credit (hopefully upwards), then signing up for one of these credit monitoring sites can be very helpful.

Just don’t confuse it with the real thing when it comes to loan time.

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