You've all been mesmerized by the catchy commercials for companies that offer free credit reports. Their jingles stay in your head for days. You may find yourself bobbing your head to the tune hours after you've heard it. They're clever and downright infectious. But, are they free?
Please.. please.. please don't sign up for this service if you are looking for a free credit report! Just like way too many good things, it's a gimic. Here's how it works:
You hear that tune bounce around in your head for 3 days and decide to finally visit the website. You type it in your browser. It's something like www.absolutelyfreecreditreport-reallyitdoesn'tcostanythingatall.com. They promptly ask for your credit card information.
Red flag!!! Why in the world would they need money to give you something for free? Eh. Maybe it's just a formality, so you continue. You get your "free" credit report and are happy with the service. Your credit card bill comes and hopefully you've noticed the fact that they have just charged you $30 for a monthly service fee. They'll continue charging this fee to you as long as it takes for you to notice.
The service that they offer on those websites is NOT a free credit report. They offer a monthly subscription of fraud prevention service. If you are looking for a service to alert you to unauthorized credit checks, then go ahead and apply. But, if your only intention was to get a peak at your credit report, don't do it! There's a better way.
The only place that really gives you your credit report for free and no gimics is: www.annualcreditreport.com
This website was a joint collaboration of the three credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and Transunion. You can get each report once per year. This setup gives you the option of pulling all three reports at once or pulling one at a time at regular intervals. This strategy of timing your credit pulls is an effective way of monitoring your credit report over time.
This website allows you to get your credit report for free. It's a great way to verify that everything on it is correct. However, you will have to pay a small fee if you decide that you'd like to see your credit scores.
If you are working towards getting approved for a home mortgage, I would hold off. Checking your credit yourself does not effect your score in any way. However, your Mortgage Professional should be able to provide you with a copy of your credit report and your score. See if you can get it from your Mortgage Professional before you waste one of your annual credit pulls.
I hope this post encourages you to continually monitor your credit. Fraud can ruin your credit in a heartbeat. Besides that, you will find that credit bureaus often make mistakes. You may find your credit is intertwined with one of your family members, or worse yet, a complete stranger. Be vigilent and keep those credit bureaus honest. It's your right under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.