How to access your annual free credit report – step by step instructions

It is always a good idea to check your credit profile before making a major credit decision such as re-financing a mortgage or applying for a credit card. Sometimes there are errors on your credit report that you need to dispute, and other times there may be legitimate negative records that you may be able to remove in one way or another. Conveniently, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) entitles you to one credit report from each consumer reporting agency (CRA).

We start with the following website: https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp

Some of you may have seen a TV commercial lately of a service that is supposed to give you free credit reports. I believe the website is: freecreditreport.com – But don’t fall for it: this service is not free, and is not endorsed by our government. The website we are following is the only one that is guaranteed to provide you with official credit reports and does not leak your personal information. See the logos of the 3 CRA’s on the bottom of the page?

Pick your state, then hit "Request Report"
Pick your state, then hit “Request Report”

Once you reach the website, select your state, then hit “Request Report”. You’ll be taken to this page:

annual credit report form

This is where you fill in your personal information. The fields marked with asterisks are required; others are optional. After verifying your personal information, you’ll be taken to this page:

annual credit report CRA selection

As mentioned above, you have one free report from each consumer reporting agency each year. This page is where you select which consumer reporting agency you want to pull your report from. Depending on your personal situation you can select 1 or more agencies to view in the same session. After making the selection, hit “Next” to land on …

annual credit report site transfer

This is where you will be transferred to the websites of the agencies you selected to access your credit report. In this case, I selected Experian. The instruction says that you can return to the original website once you’re done viewing your report, but beware! Once you leave the CRA’s website you will not be able to view your credit report again, unless you follow a simple trick that I will explain in a sec.

So once you hit “Next”, you will land on the CRA’s website, in my case, Experian. You may be asked further identification questions. Just answer them correctly, and Experian will give you access to your credit report. Here we go:

Pay attention to the arrows!
Pay attention to the arrows!

The tabs on the top of the page will allow you to easily navigate the electronic report. Much easier than having to scroll down a 20-page, dense report.

Now if you want to store your report, there are two ways. One, you can print the report to paper or to a .pdf file, following the big green arrow I drew. This way the report will be permanently viewable in the form of a long, dense document starting with

Sample Experian report print

The trick I wanted to show you will help you return to the easily navigated electronic report even after you leave the Experian site. Save the report number which the small green arrow points at. If you have saved your report using the first method, the number will be there. Then, go to the following address: https://www.experian.com/consumer/cac/InvalidateSession.do?code=DISPUTE&channel=8348

Experian credit report return

Enter the report number and a little other information, then don’t tell anyone what you see next, because it’s very cool.

I’ve shown you how to access your free Experian credit report. You can obtain your free Transunion and Equifax reports using the same method. By the way, I wanted to mention that a colleague of mine specifically requested this topic earlier. If you found this post helpful, please say something in the Comments section to acknowledge my colleague’s contribution. 😉

Spend some time perusing your free credit reports this weekend!

Happy Easter, and Happy Sunshine!

Best,

Richard (Hiep Tran)

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6 thoughts on “How to access your annual free credit report – step by step instructions

  1. Richard, showing us screen shots on how to access our annual free credit report is a great idea. It shows people how simple getting their free credit report really is.

    1. You can get your credit report whenever you want. Usually it takes about a month for a new credit card to show up on your credit report. Some show up in a couple of days, and some can take almost 2 months.

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