How We Reviewed AnnualCreditReport.com
1 claim analyzed
3 contenders compared
6 features evaluated
Although there are several places where you can access a free credit report online, only AnnualCreditReport.com gives you the reports with absolutely no strings attached. Other sites require you to sign up for a trial of their credit monitoring service, charging you if you don’t unsubscribe before the trial is over.
AnnualCreditReport.com was set up by the "Big Three" credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) in response to the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (FACT) Act. You’re eligible for one free report from each bureau once every 12 months, so if you haven’t looked at yours in the past year, AnnualCreditReport.com may be the perfect website for you.
AnnualCreditReport.com’s claim is a simple one. The site asserts to be the only official site explicitly directed by law to provide you with your credit reports from the “Big Three” agencies: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax.
Is it true?
Yes. The site is set up and maintained by agents for the Big Three and is directly linked to them. You are eligible by federal law for one free credit report from each of the three agencies each year, and this site was created to facilitate that process. There are no bells and whistles here, as you might find on the for-profit credit monitoring sites like IdentityForce or myFICO — no tools for analyzing or managing your score, and no resources for how to improve that score. However, this site proposes to do one thing, and it does a fine job of it.
Anyone who wants to review the raw data found in their credit reports
Those looking for educational materials, credit analyzers and other support tools, or guidance on how to deal with a financial breach or identity theft
|Standout features||Three-bureau credit reports at no cost
|Identity theft insurance||N/A|
|Support||Postal mail or online contact form|
Easy, instant access
You can apply for your free credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com by phone, by mail, or online. If you choose to do so online, you will fill out personal information, including some identity verification questions — then you have access to your report instantly. While other websites offering free credit reports make you wait a few days for results, AnnualCreditReport.com gives you access to all of your reports in a matter of minutes.
Options for viewing
AnnualCreditReport.com gives you two options: view your three credit reports all at once or space them out over the course of the year. Viewing them at the same time allows you to compare your information across the different reports. However, as most of the information in the reports is likely to be more or less the same at any given time, you might prefer to spread them out so you can stay apprised of any changes over the course of the year. Keep in mind that once you’ve ordered a report from a particular credit agency, you aren’t able to view that agency’s credit report for another 12 months; because of this, we recommend cycling through each agency, a different one every four months.
Because it's a free source, there isn’t a great deal of additional information or tools on AnnualCreditReport.com. But you’re not left completely without resources. There are pages dedicated to the basics of identity theft, information on setting up a security freeze, and what steps to take in the event of a data breach. The site gives you tips on what you should be looking for when you review your credit report and, perhaps most importantly, links to government and consumer sites where you can go for further information on a range of credit issues.
Credit scores not included
Though AnnualCreditReport.com provides your credit reports for free, you have to go elsewhere to view your credit scores. If viewing your reports is all you need, AnnualCreditReport.com could still be the right choice. However, if you were hoping to see your scores or have access to more comprehensive credit services, you may be better off with a service like myFICO.
No credit monitoring
AnnualCreditReport.com was designed with the sole purpose of enabling consumers to view their credit reports for free, so it should come as no surprise that this site doesn’t offer any way to have your credit monitored. If you’re interested in this type of service, there are plenty of other credit report companies that provide credit monitoring. Some of these, like FreeCreditReport.com, also give you access to credit reports for free when you sign up.
No bells and whistles
Most of the for-pay credit monitoring sites include things like detailed, user-friendly dashboards that allow you to keep tabs on your credit and see what your financial life looks like over time. Credit analyzers are also common. These tools give you the ability to view what would happen to your credit if you made a hypothetical change, like paying off a mortgage or car loan. Alas, AnnualCreditReport.com has none of these. It’s a minor quibble, because for the price you’re (not) paying, you get real value in the form of your reports. But we wouldn’t say no if the Big Three agencies, which run the site, offered up a few more resources for consumers.
Annual (Equifax, Experian, Transunion)
AnnualCreditReport.com vs. IdentityForce
IdentityForce is one of the top credit monitoring companies in the business. It’s earned that place with a robust range of credit monitoring extras that it supplies along with your credit reports. Unlike AnnualCreditReport.com, you’ll receive your credit scores along with those reports. You’ll also have access to a tracker that lets you view your scores over time and a simulator that shows you how your credit will be impacted if you make a financial change. These are great tools, but of course they come at a price. You’ll pay roughly $20 per month for these services; only you can decide if the price is worth it.
AnnualCreditReport.com vs. Identity Guard
Another top player in the field of credit reporting, Identity Guard offers the reassurance of a user-friendly dashboard and copious educational resources along with regular credit reports, scores, and credit changes. Like IdentityForce (and unlike AnnualCreditReport.com), the company also gives you extensive identity protection with your subscription, monitoring the darknet and social media for the misuse of your name or financial information. If you’re concerned about identity theft and want to be able to block it quickly, Identity Guard is worth a look.
AnnualCreditReport.com vs. myFICO
MyFICO also offers a comprehensive array of credit services at a cost that is a bit pricier than IdentityForce and Identity Guard. The company does have one thing that all of our other three options lack, however: access to your actual FICO scores, including FICO Score 8, the most widely used score by creditors, and newly released FICO Score 9. You’ll find an excellent FICO score simulator tool, which is — dare we say it? — fun to use, and which allows you to run the numbers for a range of financial situations. The company’s FICO Ultimate 3B+ plan hits a home run with three-bureau monitoring plus monthly credit reports. However, at $40 a month, it’s our most expensive option, at the opposite end of the cost spectrum from AnnualCreditReport.com.
Do I need to submit my Social Security number to get my credit reports?
Yes. AnnualCreditReport.com's security protocols protect your personal information. If you have an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) that will not work at AnnualCreditReport.com, however, you can submit your requests to one of the Big Three directly.
Can AnnualCreditReport.com remove me from unsolicited credit and insurance offers?
The website itself cannot do this for you. However, it recommends that you contact the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies at 1-888-567-8688 to leave your name off lists for preapproved unsolicited credit and insurance offers. You can also opt out at https://www.optoutprescreen.com/, which, like AnnualCreditReport.com, is run by the Big Three credit agencies.
Where can I find out more about managing credit?
AnnualCreditReport.com recommends two solid sources of information: the Federal Trade Commission’s website and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s website. Both sites are functions of the federal government and feature a wealth of information about managing your credit and more.