You can’t turn on the TV, listen to the radio, or browse the net without seeing an ad telling you about how to get a free credit report. When I had my identity stolen several years ago I contacted each credit bureau individually, but that was decidedly time consuming and confusing. That’s why these ads for free credit reports are so tempting.
Legally, we are entitled to see a copy of our full credit report once a year at no cost. The confusion comes from companies who automatically enroll you in their paid monthly service once you request your initial free credit report. You have to go slow, read the fine print and make sure you understand what you are signing up for before you hit submit.
Experian, for example, has a small disclaimer that many people miss. It says:
“When you order your free report here, you will begin your free trial membership in Triple AdvantageSM Credit Monitoring. If you don’t cancel your membership within the 30-day trial period, you will be billed $12.95 for each month that you continue your membership.”
If you hunt around, you will find a link to the actual free site AnnualCreditReport.com.
As for free monthly monitoring of your credit score, there is actually a no cost option.
Credit Karma offers you access to your credit score for free, with no hidden fees. You can check your score from month to month and watch for patterns. Is it going up or going down? What can you do to improve your score? There are tips and articles to help you build your rating and credit strength.
Credit Karma is still in Beta, so you will need an invitation code to sign up. Lucky for you, I have a code right here: CKFRND