If you watch any amount of television, you have no doubt seen the “Free Credit Report.com” commercials. You know, the commercials where the guy who is down on his luck because his mom/dad/sister/dog committed identity theft and ran his credit into the ground, stomped on it and smashed flat. We are drawn in by a fella singing about having to living in mom’s basement or watching him riding a bike to work because he cannot finance a car, get a decent job, buy a house or do much of anything at all because his credit stinks. His original little jingles encouraging us to visit the website, so we can get our free credit report. All so we don’t end up like him. It works too; I visited the site and signed up for my free credit report online; the only problem is, the report isn’t exactly “free”.
Read the fine print
After you carefully keystroke your personal information at freecreditreport.com, you reach the agreement page. If you are like me, you click “Next” and never read a thing. (Disclosures are boring) You are not even suspicious until the site asks you for your credit card number. Wait. What?
In other words, what they don’t sing about in the catchy jingles for these charming commercial spots is that, after 30 days, Freecreditreport.com charges you $19.99 per month. This fee is part of a service you “order” when you accept your credit report. (What?) It’s true; hidden in that long, boring disclosure is your check box agreement to $19.99 per month in exchange for your “free” credit report.
The commercials are cute and all, but not enough to make me want to commit to $19.99 per month.
Where to go to get a free credit report
Even though the word “free” isn’t in the title, and despite the fact that the website might not be backed by super trendy commercials with catchy tunes, it is free. Really free. Annualcreditreport.com is the website hub set up by the three major credit reporting bureaus, (Equifax, Experian and Transunion) providing US consumers a free, no obligation copy of his/her credit report. One you input your personal information; you confirm your identity for each bureau, print or save your reports and you won’t be asked for your credit card number.
What isn’t included
Despite the fact that every citizen is entitled to a free credit annual credit report, the report alone does not include a critical piece of the credit puzzle; your credit score. Your credit score is the numeric reflection of your credit history and is the number banks, credit card companies and credit providers use to establish a baseline of your personal credit worthiness.
If you want to see your score, you have to pay for it. Wait, it’s not that expensive, it’s no where near $19.99 per month. The price for your score is set by each agency and ranges from $5.00 to $15.00.
However, for you girls out there who like free stuff, there is a website that offers a totally free credit score. Creditkarma.com is entirely free to sign up for and totally free to use, no strings attached. However, this super cool website only connects to Transunion information. Equifax and Experian scores must be obtained directly from the agencies themselves.
So the next time you turn on the television set, hear that cutesy jingle, and tap your foot along with the tale of woe from the guy telling you to check or credit, don’t fall for the hype; sing along, while you access your free credit report, your really free one.