How I got my credit scores and credit report for free

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The responses from my survey are coming in (I’ll show you the data tomorrow). If you haven’t taken the survey yet, please take 60 seconds and take my survey.

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Last week, I called up my credit-card company to ask about some charge I didn’t understand. Because I’m Indian, whenever I talk to a company, I always ask if they have any special promotions running. “Yes, we have a couple,” they said, and my ears perked up. “Sir, did you know you can get your credit score and credit report for free right now?”

Interesting. I asked a couple of questions and discovered that they have a $9.95/month program called “Identity Monitoring,” which is basically completely useless, but people who don’t know better might sign up for it. However, the upside was that they have a 30-day free trial, during which time they’d send me my credit score for free. This would save me about $35. As long as I canceled within a month, there’d be no charge. (More about why your credit score is important here.)

No problem. I do trial offers all the time and I always enter the cancellation date in my calendar (plus a couple days of buffer in case something goes wrong). Here’s what my reminder in Outlook says:

Identify monitoring — cancel
Account #: XXXXXXX
1-866-279-9637

By entering all the information I need to make a call, I remove all the possible barriers, like “I don’t have the account number…I’ll do it later.” I know the phone number and account number right there.

Anyway, I got the credit score and was happy I saved a little money. So I called them up 2 days ago to cancel. The rep said, “Sir, I’m happy to cancel your account, but did you know you could get your 3-in-1 credit report for free? I show you as only having gotten one so far.” (Note: Your credit report is different than your credit score.)

Touche, I thought. So I agreed to continue the service for a little while longer so I could download my credit reports.

I finished that within about 20 minutes and called them back. Little did I know that there was more! This time, another rep offered to send me some my other 2 credit scores if I agreed to keep the service going for another few days.

I checked my calendar and verified that I wouldn’t be charged. The reps were all extremely nice and extremely up-front in assuring me that lots of people cancel before 30 days, and that I definitely wouldn’t be charged. And knowing what we know about getting fees reversed, even if I did get charged, I’m sure I could get it reversed.

The point is that you don’t always have to be suspicious of these things. I got about $100 worth of free stuff for a few minutes on the phone by using a simple infrastructure to make sure I cancel on time. Other things you could use this for: Blockbuster/Netflix trials, any financial-services trial, or basically any trial!

So here’s what I want you to do. I want you to get your credit report and credit score today. It will take you a few minutes, but it’s worth it:

  • Get your credit report. This describes how many accounts you have open, what standing they’re in, etc. Time required: ~20 minutes. Fee: Free. Get it here: http://www.annualcreditreport.com.
  • Get your credit score. This is an actual number–the same number that lenders see (e.g., for car loans and home loans). The higher the score, the better loan you get (more about credit scores.) Time required: ~30 minutes. Fee: It depends, but not much. To start off, just get one of your credit scores. I notice that Experian will let you get your Experian score for free during a 30-day free trial. So does Transunion. I don’t care which you choose–Experian, TransUnion, Equifax, or a 3rd-party provider like MyFico. The important part is to just do it. Later, you can get really fancy with a 3-in-1 credit report.

By the end of today, you’ll have a credit report, which you can check for accuracy and make sure your accounts are straight. You’ll also know what your credit score is–along with specific instructions on how to improve it.

Note: If you like iwillteachyoutoberich.com, please please please take my survey (it takes 2 minutes).

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20 Comments

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  1. It’s funny that you post this because I just recently did the same thing. :D

    Nice!

  2. Good tip, however it seems like a lot of hoops to jump through to save a little cash. Annualcreditreport.com is a great resource for obtaining free, no-strings credit reports from all three bureaus. While it’s good to have an idea of where your score is at, the scores provided by the bureaus are usually not the same scores lenders look at when determining your creditworthiness. I used to work for a company that provided “tri-merge” reports – a report consolidating info from all three bureaus – to the mortgage industry. We would often receive calls from consumers complaining that the score on our reports was significantly lower than than the score they were given on report they received directly from the bureau. This is because our reports used a different scoring model than the one used on “consumer disclosure” reports.

    If you’re still hell-bent on obtaining your scores, Transunion offers a 3-in-1 report with scores for around $40. Well worth the time saved obtaining a separate report from each bureau or talking to customer service reps trying to cancel some monthly monitoring service. If you were recently denied credit, you’re also entitled to a free copy of your report from the bureau that the creditor pulled from, and usually you can add additional bureau reports and scores for a lower price.

    Also worth noting, none of these “consumer disclosure” reports count as a “hard pull” on your credit report – your credit score will not be affected.

  3. Oh, this is interesting–I’m going to have look into this. Thanks for the comment!

    Also, I agree with your point about the value of what you’re doing. I think it’s weird when people spend 8 hours on the phone to save $20. My only defense is that I was already on the phone and they offered me something I’d been meaning to do anyway (for free).

  4. You inspired me to get my credit reports and check my credit score, but now I’m wondering if I just got suckered… I purchased the “VantageScore” report from Experian, which I thought would give me my FICO score, but the scale is slightly different (501-990). Did I just pay $6 for a propietary number that only Experian uses?

  5. Leah, you should get your FICO score, not the Vantagescore. The credit companies are pissed at FICO and are trying to create their own system, but for now, FICO is more relevant.

  6. Argh, Experian is on my permanent S-list now. :(

    Thanks for the advice Ramit.

  7. This is so weird. I just got my free credit report late last night for some random reason. It just hit me that I should do it.

  8. I use freecreditreport.com, you only get your Experian report (although I didn’t milk the sales reps) and you get your credit score, it also takes about 10 minutes to cancel.

  9. Isn’t there more than three credit bureaus? I’ve always wondered why do people only mention these three when there are others who could have wrong or adverse information in their report as well. I’d think these smaller companies would have some relavancy to credit lenders and they do check clients’ credit history with them, after all, how would they stay in business if they were useless or forgotten about.

  10. I have a credit card with Providian (now combined with Washington Mutual) and one of their offerings is an updated view of your FICO credit score. Each month I see how it has changed. For a no fee credit card, I keep the account for this advantage alone.

  11. “How I got my credit scores and credit report for free”-
    Ramit I have to admit your are loosing your value as well as the purpose of your Blog by such a LOUSY topic. It is such stale topic.We all receive such offers through phone or mail, so it seems like you made “GREAT” acheievement by writing.

    Seriously Ramit spend time wisely and educate the readers with something useful and what your Blog says. Sorry for being little harsh, but TRUTH hurts. :)

  12. ramit…..can you expand on the “Because I’m Indian….” remark ? seems like a rather glib generalisation.

  13. Not sure how it affects the overall credit score and such… but if you suspect any type of fraudelent activity (for whatever reason) you can flag your credit record with a fraud alert and all 3 agencies are required to give you your report for free. It also puts a flag up if someone access your credit report because Joe Blow is using your info to finance a car / house / boat.

    Worth remembering… but I don’t know if you would want to do it just to get the free reports.

  14. Stephen Correia Link to this comment

    I just recently did this as well at http://www.freecreditreport.com, you can get the Experian report for free, but I chose to pay $24.95 to get the 3-in-1 report. I found that my credit report was 30 pages, that seems too big to me, so I’m going through it now to see if there are any accounts I don’t recognize, and if some closed accounts are still listed as active to get that corrected. Thanks for the article.

  15. Providian gives me my credit score for free every month – noting to cancel. Of course this is just one of the agencies, but it’s nice to have. It’s pretty much the only reason I keep the card – I actually use my rewards card from Citi. Of course if I can’t use my Citi card for some reason, Providian gets some business.

  16. Ramit, I don’t see any connection between being an Indian and getting/asking something free or promotional offer

  17. seeker and manseta: he’s using the racial stereotype that Indian people (not Native American) are constant hagglers. He’s poking fun at himself.

  18. Citi has a $40 Credit Protector rebate. The details are found here: http://tinyurl.com/ry7s4

    Is this worth doing?

  19. “But Ramit,” I said, “why do I need my credit score?”

    I schedule a reminder to get my free credit report from one of the three providers every four months. This is to catch identity crooks as fast as possible. (No problem yet.)

    But my credit score is as meaningful as my net worth, which I also don’t track, even though it would be easy.

    So long as you aren’t about to buy a mortgage, or possibly finance a car, your credit score does not matter. If you pay your bills on time and keep your debt-to-credit ratio below 75%, your score won’t go much below 700. But what’s the use of knowing it at all? And frankly, what’s the point of maximizing it? An example:

    I have an enormous amount of credit. Sometimes I’ll borrow huge sums of cash at a low rate and invest it at a higher rate. During the period when I have the borrowed cash, my FICO score might drop… but who cares? At that time, I have an enormous pile of cash, and more credit is the last thing I need! When I pay all the cash back, then my FICO score shoots back up, and my access to new credit is restored. So why do I need to know what this number is? I wouldn’t give a cent to know. Ok, sure, I’d give a dollar to know, just like I’d give a dollar to watch two minutes of good porn. But it’s not meaningful information. It’s trivia and amusement. Once you have enough credit to meet your own needs, you don’t ever have to think about FICO again.

  20. What i know, consumers can request a credit report from any credit bureau once a year. And what i know with Citi’s identity monitoring, even if you cancel on the first month, you arer entitle for the 3in1 credit report and scores from the three major credit bureaus.