You Can Get Free, Weekly Credit Reports Until April 2021—Here’s How
Take advantage of this special opportunity.
There’s more than enough to worry about in the world right now to spend time fretting over your credit score. Between a health crisis, an economic crisis, and an ongoing crisis of racial injustice, you likely have a lot on your mind—don’t add fighting identity fraud or an unnecessarily damaged credit score to the list by keeping a close eye on your credit report.
In normal times, you can access your credit report from each credit bureau—TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax—for free once per year, thanks to AnnualCreditReport.com, the only federally approved source for free credit reports. Most recommendations say to check your credit report three times a year, ordering it from a different bureau each time, to keep an eye on your report year round. If you’re making a large purchase for which you’ll need a loan—like a car or house—you might want to get all three reports at once to ensure everything is correct.
Now though, during COVID-19, all three bureaus are offering free weekly online credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com. This simply means you can keep a closer eye than ever on your credit from now until April 2021: Depending on how vigilant you want to be, you could order all three credit reports every single week for the next forty-some weeks until the offer expires.
To access your free weekly reports, simply visit AnnualCreditReport.com and click the button to request your free credit reports. The website will ask you some identification questions—your name, address, social security number, etc.—and then take you to the individual credit bureau sites. (You’ll be able to click through to get each credit report, one at a time.) You’ll be asked more challenging questions to prove your identity, and then you’ll be able to download your report. You can download one, two, or all three with each request.
Your credit report offers a comprehensive look at your financial history. It shows all the names you’re registered under—if you’re married and changed your name, for example, it will likely display both names for you—all the addresses you’ve lived at, phone numbers, and other private information. (Remember that your credit report contains highly confidential, private information and should be handled with care, particularly if you receive a paper copy.)
Beyond your personal information, the report will display all the loan accounts you’ve ever had, including credit cards, mortgages, and installment loans. It will record all monthly balances and whether payments were made on time; essentially, it tracks whether you’re in good standing with all the debt you’ve already borrowed or taken out. If you made late payments, carried balances (as on a credit card), or otherwise didn’t pay what you owe, your credit report will show that.
When you’re checking your credit report for fraud, look for listed addresses you’ve never lived at or accounts you’ve never opened: These can be signs that your identity was stolen. There may also be errors in reporting—a lender reporting that you didn’t pay your balance off when you did, for example—that you can dispute to preserve your credit. If you’re trying to figure out how to get out of credit card debt, seeing which accounts you’ve missed payments on can also help you plan your repayment schedule.
Beyond taking steps to freeze credit, checking your credit reports regularly is one of the best ways to fight identity theft. If you notice something incorrect on your report, you can catch it early and take steps to stop the theft and preserve your credit. If you’ve never paid much attention to your reports, now can also be a great time to study them closely and get a better sense of your credit history. Just remember: These reports show your credit history, but not your credit score. If you want to check your credit score, your bank might offer a service that allows you to do so; you can also sign up for a credit monitoring service that will show your score and track shifts.
Not everyone needs to check their credit report as frequently as weekly, but if you’re concerned about identity fraud right now or are accumulating debt because of financial hardship, keeping an eye on it can help you understand how this year’s events may affect your financial outlook.