Clark Howard

Free Credit Report Guide

Are you getting all your free credit reports? You are entitled to get a free credit report from all three of the major credit bureaus once every year. 

Why you need to check your credit reports

It’s important to periodically check your reports to make sure everything is accurate and that there are no mistakes. The credit bureaus very often make errors, so you want to make sure they have everything right. Checking your credit reports is also the best way to check for any unauthorized activity. You may not even realize someone has gotten their hands on your information until you find an unauthorized bill or account in your name on your credit report. Identity theft and other mistakes can really mess up your financial life, so it’s crucial that you keep up with your reports.

Credit reports vs. credit score

Your credit reports include all the details on your credit accounts, including both current and closed accounts. Your credit reports track payments and other information for every loan, credit card and any other line of credit you have. Your credit score is a number based on your credit history and activity. Here’s a guide on what to know about your credit score, including how to get it and how to improve it.

How to get your free credit reports

Due to the passage of the 2003 Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act (FACTA), all Americans are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — upon request every 12 months. There are several ways you can request yours:

Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281

TIP: Don't forget to get your free credit score while you're at it.

The 2003 law did not eliminate the other ways to receive a free credit report. You’re still entitled to yours if you meet any of the following conditions:

  • You applied for a loan and were turned down. You can request by writing the correct credit bureau within 30 days of your rejection. Enclose a copy of the declined loan application with your request.
  • You're unemployed and planning to apply for jobs in the next 60 days.
  • You're receiving public assistance.
  • You believe your credit file contains mistakes due to fraud.
  • You currently reside in a state that offers a free annual report from each credit reporting agency by state law. Residents of the following seven states are entitled to one free copy of their credit report every 12 months from each of the three main credit agencies per federal law and one free copy of their credit report every 12 months from each of the three main credit agencies.

New Jersey

The second free report can be obtained by directly calling or writing each credit bureau:

Equifax: 1-800-685-1111   (P.O. Box 740256, Atlanta, GA 30374)
Experian: 1-888-397-3742   (P.O. Box 2002,  Allen, TX 75013)
TransUnion: 1-800-916-8800  (P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19022)

Include the following info in your letter. Be sure that each person requesting the report signs and dates the request.

  • Your full name
  • Date of birth
  • Current and former address
  • Social Security number
  • Your spouse's name
  • Your phone number

For those who do not reside in the seven states where you are entitled to a second free credit report per agency per year, you may order a second or third report directly from the three agencies by mail. Include the same identifying information listed above and mail to the same addresses listed for each bureau. Here is a breakdown of the charges:

California residents: $8 per report
Connecticut residents: $5 per report
Minnesota residents: $3 per report
Montana residents: $8.50 per report
Virgin Island residents: $1 per report
Residents of all other states: $10 per report

If you’re in the military and stationed overseas, begin by writing to the address above and sending copies of as much ID as possible. Be sure to provide a U.S. mailing address where your report can be sent. You may need to have the report sent to a relative’s home and have them forward it to you.

Getting a credit report from Innovis — considered the 4th major credit bureau:

Regardless of where you live, you are entitled to one Innovis credit report at no cost if you:

  • Are unemployed and intend to apply for employment within the next 60 days.
  • Receive public assistance.
  • Believe your file contains inaccurate information because of fraud. • Received a notice of an adverse decision — such as a denial of credit, insurance or employment — within the past 60 days.

Rules for all others as to how to obtain your Innovis credit report are available at Check the link on this page for cost information by state.

Specialty reports, such as the C.L.U.E. report from LexisNexis, are also available. For a list of such reports, see Privacy Rights Clearinghouse's rundown.

TheWorkNumber, an Equifax-owned company, permits you to order a free report to learn what information they have about you. This employment data report could potentially be given out when an employment verification request is made. To see what they've got on you, visit or call 1-866-604-6570.

(The information comes from people who have tried these methods — let us know how these methods work for you.)

TransUnion: Call 1-800-916-8800 and follow the voice prompts.
TransUnion LLC
PO Box 2000
Chester, PA. 19022

Experian: Call 1-714-830-7000 and follow the voice prompts.
If that does not work for you, then write to the following address:
Experian Credit Report Request for Frozen Report
PO Box 9554
Allen,TX. 75040

Equifax: Call 1-888-298-0045 or 1-877-784-2528
If that does not work for you, then write to the following address:
Equifax Credit Information Services
Request for Report on Frozen Credit Report
PO Box 740241
Atlanta,GA. 30374

Remember to include your ID information and your PIN.

Sources: and Privacy Rights Clearinghouse

How to challenge errors on your credit report

Did you hear about the woman who sued Equifax for $18 million because they wouldn’t fix errors on her credit report even after she diligently stayed on top of them for 2 years?

Having black marks on your files could mean denial of job offers, higher interest rates on loans, higher insurance rates, or outright denials for credit. Disputing an error on your credit report is difficult, but it can be done. Here's how to challenge errors on your credit report.

More resources: