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A little more than a year ago, I posted this thread about how to obtain your credit reports. It's something I do annually, and thought it worthwhile to post again for those of you interested in obtaining yours.

Please note that the prices listed in the post may be out-of-date. Check with the specific websites for more details.


(originally posted 8/7/2001)

There are three major credit reporting agencies (CRAs): Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Although there may be other minor agencies, I am not aware of any. Others will let you know if I am wrong.

Each agency is independent of the others, so you are correct in your assumption that making changes to one agency's report will NOT affect the reports generated by the other agencies.

Getting your credit reports

There are two ways in which you can order your credit reports:
*Directly from the CRA
*Through another service

If you order directly through each CRA, you will be charged a nominal fee for the report (usually 8.95 per copy). However, if you live in one of the following states, you are entitled to recieve at least one free copy of your report (per agency) per calendar year:

New Jersey

To get your free reports, you'll have to contact each agency separately. Only Experian processes online requests for free reports -- the rest can be ordered over the telephone.

Equifax -- 1-800-997-2493
Experian --
TransUnion -- 1-800-888-4213

If you do not live in one of the aforementioned states, you can still order a copy of your credit report directly from each CRA's website. As mentioned, there will be a charge for each copy you order.

You can also order all three reports in one transaction through a variety of sites. Some of them include: -- $29.95 -- $39.95 (online viewing) -- $29.95 -- $29.99 -- $29.99 -- $39.95

Correcting your credit report

Once you receive your credit report(s), you may notice errors or ommissions. To correct these deficiencies, you'll have to submit a formal dispute with the CRA reporting the erroneous information. Formal dispute procedures and forms will be sent with each report -- or will be listed online if you view your report in that manner.

To the best of my knowledge, there is no way to remove valid negative credit information from your reports prior to the specified timelines. The best you can do is to pay your bills on time and demonstrate that you have "recovered" from your previous ways. Your best recourse may be to simply assert that point (supported by a credit report showing recent good activity) verbally or in writing with your potential lender.

What about my FICO score?

The CRAs are now releasing your FICO scores. Your FICO score is a numerical assessment of your credit worthiness -- ranging from 300 to 900, and calculated based on a computer model. Note that your FICO score may vary from CRA to CRA -- based on the information that each one is reporting.

You can obtain your FICO score in the same manner you request your credit report -- direct from the CRAs or through a third-party. I am unsure whether the FICO score will be included in the free reports, however.

At the very least, you should obtain a copy of your credit report from each CRA once per calendar year and verify the accuracy of the information therein. Actively monitoring your credit reports is a good way to ensure that you will be able to get those loans you want -- of course, actively monitoring your debt practices is essential too!
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