The Best Free Credit Report Sites
How We Chose the Best Free Credit Report Sites
20 hours of research
8 providers evaluated
3 top picks
The Best Free Credit Report Sites
Your credit is your track record of paying back loans on time. Your credit reports are just as simple: They’re reports of every line of credit you’ve had (including balances, limits, and payment histories), along with whether you’ve ever been sued or have filed for bankruptcy. Lenders use them to evaluate just about everything: your applications for credit cards, insurance, employment, or renting a home, as well as how much to charge you in interest.
Federal law mandates that each of the “Big Three” consumer credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax, and Transunion — gives you one free credit report per year. You can request all three at AnnualCreditReport.com. If you’re looking to educate yourself, you may be better off with a free trial from a subscription site. These services tend to have more tools, more resources, and more user-friendly language.
How We Chose the Best Free Credit Report Site
Includes all of the “Big Three”
Each of the Big Three bureaus reports on your credit and each has its own method of data collection, so what shows up on one might not show up on the others. Most lenders check only one when making a decision, but you don’t know which one they’ll choose. “Monitoring only one of your three credit reports is like locking one of the three doors to your house,” says John Ulzheimer, a credit expert who has worked for both Equifax Credit Information Services and FICO.
Credit scores a bonus
Your credit score is essentially your whole credit report rolled into a single number between roughly 300 and 850. Each bureau has its own score to go along with its report, but the most popular credit-scoring models are actually maintained by two other companies: FICO (originally called Fair, Isaac and Company) and VantageScore (a joint venture of the Big Three Bureaus). Credit scores by themselves don’t offer enough information for you to know how to improve them, but they’re still important to know, since many lenders use them as a shorthand for the longer reports.
It goes without saying that we were looking for sites that did not charge for credit reporting services. AnnualCreditReport.com was a no-brainer, because it is the official site created by the Big Three in response to the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 (FACTA), which required a single website accessible to all consumers. We looked at paid sites, as well, if they offered a free trial.
We also looked into free services like Credit Karma, Quizzle, WalletHub, or FreeCreditScore.com. These types of websites offer one or two bureau reports (never all three) plus a credit score. Most provide educational resources similar to what you’d get from a subscription service like Identity Guard — but prepare to be bombarded with ads for credit cards, auto loans, and home mortgages as you navigate their websites. And since none offer reports from all three bureaus, you’ll need to sign up for at least two separate services if you want to keep close tabs on your credit. We found Credit Karma the most comprehensive of these services, but you’ll still need to pair it with another site if you want to keep tabs on all three of your reports.
The 3 Best Free Credit Report Sites
- AnnualCreditReport.com -
Best Raw Data
- Identity Guard® -
- Credit Karma -
Best DIY Education
Why we chose it
All three reports free
AnnualCreditReport.com is the only place on the internet where you can get all three of your full credit reports for free. That said, it’s super bare-bones: little more than a portal that walks you through the steps to request your reports directly from the bureaus. Choose which bureau’s report you want, type in your credentials (including SSN), answer a few security questions, and voila: You’ll get a downloadable copy of your full credit report from that specific agency.
Can space out requests
You can choose to request all three reports at the same time (allowing you to note any discrepancies between current reports), or you can space out your requests over the course of a year (allowing you to check at least one current report every four months). But, you only get one report per year from each bureau, and it shows your credit only for the day it’s compiled. If you use this method and check your TransUnion report, for example, and it changes a month later, you’ll be unaware of the change until you request next year’s TransUnion report.
The most help AnnualCreditReport.com offers is an FAQ page with links to articles on the Federal Trade Commission’s and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s websites. These definitely have useful info, but you might have to wade through a few thousand words to find what you’re looking for. Still, there’s no arguing that AnnualCreditReport.com does what it says on the label: It gives you your full credit report from each bureau, once annually.
Points to consider
AnnualCreditReport.com takes a compliance-only approach: no credit scores and zero assistance in making sense of your reports. When you pull one, you’ll see it looks a lot like a bank statement. It’s basically a long list of your credit lines, debt, and payment histories going back years, along with any recent inquiries made by potential lenders, but there’s nothing to tell you how this data will be perceived by lenders.
Results difficult to analyze
Unless you’re a financial professional, you may find the raw data daunting. The reports could never be considered user-friendly. They will include all your current and recent past bank accounts, loans, and other personal financial data, info on your bill payments and whether you made them on time, and queries that have been made to the credit bureau on your behalf. But without access to your credit score or to tools that help you interpret the data, it’s just a lot of numbers. If all you want to know is whether you’ve been dinged for late payments, say, then you’ll find that info there. If you want a little more help, though, consider our next choice.
Why we chose it
30-day free trial
Identity Guard offers a free 30-day trial of its “Total Protection” package. It’s called “Total Protection” because it’s actually an identity theft protection service first — but credit monitoring is one of the main methods of keeping your identity secure.
In contrast to AnnualCreditReport.com’s no-frills approach, Identity Guard’s free trial bundles your three bureau reports with some other nifty features, including credit scores, a description of how your profile compares to the general population, and suggestions for improving your credit based on which factors are weighed most heavily by lenders. If you think of AnnualCreditReport.com’s reports as raw data, Identity Guard is a professor explaining what that data means and what you should do about it.
When you log into your free trial account, you’ll be able to click and scroll through each of your three credit reports without being redirected to another site or having to download anything. The full service, which is $20 a month, includes updated reports once every three months, but given that the free trial is only for 30 days, that’s kind of a moot point. However, it’s worth noting that the credit reports you get from Identity Guard are in addition to the ones you get from AnnualCreditReport.com, so it’s particularly handy if you’ve already maxed out your free pulls.
Credit analyzer tool
Identity Guard’s best complement to your credit reports is its Credit Analyzer tool, which lets you explore how various actions might impact your credit. You can simulate making payments, transferring balances, opening or closing accounts, and even receiving inquiries like you’d get from a landlord or credit card issuer to see how they affect your credit scores.
Points to consider
Fees kick in after one month
All those benefits come at a cost of $20, which kicks in after one month unless you call to cancel your free subscription. Identity Guard isn’t the only subscription service to offer a free trial, but it is the most impressive of the options we examined. TransUnion and Experian limit their free trials to just 7 days. LifeLock wanted us to pay upfront for our “free” trial — and instructed us to call them for a refund once 30 days were up. Identity Force’s trial, meanwhile, covered only identity theft monitoring services: You have to pay to access its suite of credit tools.
That said, we did unearth one runner-up that’s worth a mention. PrivacyGuard offers a 30-day trial with a range of credit tools that are very similar to Identity Guard’s offerings. Technically, PrivacyGuard’s trial isn’t free: You’ll have to pay $1 upon sign-up. But unlike Identity Guard, which requires you to call when you’re ready to cancel, PrivacyGuard’s cancellation process can be completed online.
Limited customer service
Unlike our other two no-frills options, Identity Guard at least has a customer service line — but it’s not quite as comprehensive as we’d like to see, considering that most subscribers opt for the paid plans. There’s no live chat option on the website, and customer service hours aren’t 24/7. The company promises to respond to emails within 24 to 48 hours, but we’d like to see things move a bit quicker and be a little more accessible, especially if you choose to pay for the service after your free month.
Why we chose it
Reports from two bureaus
Credit Karma is the only free service we found, other than AnnualCreditReport.com, that pulled credit reports from not one, but two credit bureaus. It doesn’t look at Experian’s data, however, so if you want the peace of mind of a truly comprehensive report, you’ll have to sign up for an additional service that focuses on that bureau — like FreeCreditScore.com — or opt for one of our other top picks.
For a free service, CreditKarma has an impressively robust set of tools and resources. Like Identity Guard, it offers a credit score simulator that lets you see how your score would be impacted by various hypothetical situations: What would happen if you maxed out your credit card? If you paid off your student loan early? CreditKarma also provides clear, user-friendly explanations of the factors affecting your credit score — warning us, for example, that a high balance on one of our cards was heavily impacting our overall score. If you have questions, there’s also an active community forum where you can seek advice from other members.
Points to consider
As with all the free sites we looked at, prepare for a barrage of advertisements. Offers for credit cards and personal loans are displayed just as prominently on the dashboard as CreditKarma’s educational resources, which can make site navigation confusing. We also weren’t enthusiastic about CreditKarma’s insistence that we must sign up for email notifications (though, to their credit, we received no spam from them at all during our two weeks of testing).
Guide to Free Credit Report Sites
How to choose a Free Credit Report Site
Assess your level of experience
Your financial knowledge level may dictate which of the choices above is best for you. If you’ve already done your homework and you just need to review your financial dealings over the past few years, AnnualCreditReport.com is probably more than enough for you. If you’re a financial newbie, on the other hand, and want a robust dashboard and lots of educational tools, a company like Identity Guard is worth looking at for its tools and resources that can help you make better financial choices.
Know what you’re looking for
Similarly, understanding what your goals are can help you decide which free credit report site to pick. If you’d like to make some decisions based on what you find out about your credit, for example, the calculators at Credit Karma may come in handy. It pays to spend a little time on each website so that you know what (if anything) you get besides your free credit report.
Consider an upgrade
We’ve suggested some excellent free resources in this review, but there’s a limit to what you can get if you’re not paying anything. If you’re interested in more comprehensive services and information and are willing to pay for it, there are a number of sites that offer credit report services—and much more—for reasonable fees. We’ve taken a long look at pay-per-month sites, and you can find our top picks here.
Best Free Credit Report Sites FAQ
The Best Free Credit Report Sites: Summed Up
Our Other Financial Services Reviews
Managing your finances in the digital age often requires some extra work to make sure your money is working hard for you. We’ve done the research and assessed the options for a variety of products, including these: