Have you heard of those commercials on TV that talk about “free” credit reports? These services, such as FreeCreditReport.com are *not* truly free. They offer free trials for a limited time (usually 7 days) but they’re actually paid subscription services after the intro period is over. They’re in the business of credit monitoring and tracking your credit standing.
Image by Andre Rolim/Getty Images
These services exist to help us keep an eye on our credit reports. A good report will help us secure lines of credit for a mortgage and auto loan, and may even help us during a job search or when we apply for insurance. We should study our credit reports to see if our personal data is accurate. It’s also wise to see if our past credit lines such as mortgages, student loans, and credit cards have been accurately documented.
Incorrect information on your credit report could result in loans with higher interest rates or even denials from new credit card companies or banks. You should also check out your credit report every so often to make sure you haven’t been hit with identity theft.
Free credit reports can be obtained at AnnualCreditReport.com and nowhere else. So to clear up the confusion, let’s take a look at what these other credit report services are offering.
What FreeCreditReport.com Offers: A Review
FreeCreditReport.com is actually affiliated with Experian, one of the major credit bureaus. Their service provides an Experian credit score and report: specifically, they offer the PLUS Score, which is Experian’s version of a credit score. However, this credit score isn’t a FICO score, which is what most lenders prefer when assessing their potential clients.
A look at their terms and conditions also discloses that you’ll need to provide your credit card information to sign up for their Triple Advantage credit monitoring service. There’s a free 7-day trial for Triple Advantage, but if you don’t cancel within a set period of time, you’ll be automatically charged a monthly or annual fee. Monthly, it’s $14.95. For the stripped down monitoring service called Triple Alert that offers alerts to changes in your reports (and id fraud resolution), the fee is $4.95 a month.
The credit monitoring service has a number of benefits: daily monitoring of your credit reports from the three bureaus, email alerts of important changes that could signal identity theft, unlimited Experian credit reports, and even a $50,000 guarantee, if you qualify.
What About FreeCreditReports360.com?
Another site that offers credit reports is FreeCreditReports360.com. Here, you’re offered three credit scores and three credit reports. However, to view your scores and reports, you’ll need to sign up for a seven-day free trial of Credit Diagnosis, a service consisting of credit monitoring and alerts. After the trial is over, this service costs $29.95 a month. Also, if you do apply for this service, you’ll become a member of Your Savings Club, a savings and shopping program which costs $1.00 a month and which helps you save 10% on various items. You can always cancel these services at any time.
Where to Go for FICO Scores and Free Credit Reports Each Year
While some people like the automated monitoring process the paid services bring, many others prefer to save their money and go for the free credit information they can get from AnnualCreditReport.com. This site is the best deal for anyone who wants to do their own credit monitoring themselves.
AnnualCreditReport.com allows consumers to pull their credit reports from all three major credit bureaus: you can get your Experian, TransUnion and Equifax credit report for free. You’ll be able to view your information securely online. A good strategy to get the information available to you on a regular basis throughout the year is to stagger the orders for these reports: if you want, you can view one report from one bureau, then wait a few months to view reports from the other bureaus. That way, you can see how your information changes over time. Note that if you request reports by mail, it may take as long as fifteen days to receive them.
If these reports can be obtained for free, then why do people subscribe to paid services? While some people may be confused about what they’re receiving, others actually prefer to have their reports and scores monitored on an ongoing basis and would rather have someone else worry about it. There are consumers who may prefer to have some level of identity theft protection through proactive monitoring.
Credit Monitoring Services and Charges to Watch Out For
If you’re ordering a free credit report, check to see if you’re also being subscribed to a monthly credit monitoring service, identity theft prevention, or other type of service. The fees can add up to quite a bit if you don’t read the fine print. Also, it may be a good tactic to track down a FAQ or web page that shows a company’s cancellation policies.
The bottom line: decide for yourself if you need the additional services before you hand over any payment information.
You have the right to a free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com
or 877-322-8228, the ONLY authorized source under federal law.