Your credit report may be a part of your life you rarely think about, but ignoring it could come back to bite you in the end. That’s because the information on your credit report can affect your finances in myriad ways, saving you money or costing you money in the long run. It’s time to pay attention to it.
Believe it or not, but you have three main credit reports from the three credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Each report lists an array of information, ranging from details on all your loans and credit card balances to your payment history, liens placed against you, and personal information like your address and place of employment. The information on each of your credit reports is used to come up with your credit score, which is a three-digit manifestation of your overall credit health.
Where good or excellent credit can help you qualify for loans with the best rates and terms, poor credit can mean being denied outright or having to pay more interest and higher fees. And that’s why the information on your credit report is so important.
Having correct, positive information on your reports will absolutely keep your credit score in the best possible shape, which comes with more financial benefits than many people realize.
If your goal is improving your credit or keeping it in the good or excellent range, you should check your credit reports regularly. But, which credit reports should you check over each year? And how do you access them affordably?
While we recommend AnnualCreditReport.com for consumers who want to see their credit reports from all three credit bureaus for free each year, we’ve compared and contrasted the top credit reports and credit report websites below to help you decide.
Most Important Factors to Consider
- Consider free and paid options. As you compare the top credit report websites available today, you’ll notice most let you see your credit report and even your score for free. However, some offer paid options that include ongoing credit monitoring and identity theft protection services. While free options are definitely worth considering, you may want to consider paying for ongoing credit monitoring from a third party company.
- Make sure to check your reports often. Checking your credit reports regularly is the best way to notice fraudulent or incorrect information as well as signs of identity theft. If you only check your reports once per year, you are leaving yourself vulnerable to fraud in a major way.
- Sign up for credit updates if you can. Some credit report websites offer free credit score updates and ongoing progress reports. These services can help you keep track of your credit score over time, including any negative trends.
The Best Credit Reports of 2020
The best credit report websites let you see all the important details that are used to help determine your credit score and overall credit health. The following chart highlights the features each website offers and what you can expect when you sign up:
|Company||What They Offer||Free Option||Best Of|
|Check all three of your credit reports for free once per year||Yes||Checking Credit Reports in One Place|
|Check your Experian credit report for free||Yes||Checking Your Experian Credit Report|
|Check your Experian credit report for free||Yes||Disputing Inaccuracies|
|Check your TransUnion credit report and score online with paid credit monitoring service||No||Checking Your TransUnion Credit Report|
|Check your TransUnion credit report for free||Yes||Free Credit Monitoring|
|Check your TransUnion credit report and VantageScore® 3.0 by TransUnion for free||Yes||Free Credit Monitoring from American Express|
|Paid service that includes credit scores, credit reports, credit and identity monitoring, and more||No||Paid Credit Monitoring|
|Check your TransUnion credit report and VantageScore® 3.0 by TransUnion for free||Yes||Preparing to Buy a Home|
Reviews of the Best Credit Report Websites
The best credit report websites give you an inside look at your credit reports and all the details inside, usually for free. However, some websites on our list also offer paid services that can help you monitor your credit and prevent identity theft over time. Below you’ll find a review of all the highlights of each service, what you can expect, and the downsides of each service you should know about.
AnnualCreditReport.com is the only website authorized by federal law to give you a free look at each of your credit reports once per year. This means you can use this website to see your Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion reports every 12 months. You also don’t have to check all your reports at the same time. Instead, you can stagger them and check different reports every 3-4 months throughout the year.
Experian lets you see a free copy of your Experian credit report for free every 30 days, and you can even sign up for account alerts that notify you of changes to your Experian report. You also get a dark web surveillance report with this free service, and you can use the Experian website to dispute any incorrect or fraudulent information you find. If you’re leaning toward paid credit monitoring in addition to checking your reports, Experian also offers a paid service for $19.99 per month. Once you sign up, you’ll get a credit score and reports from all three bureaus, fraud resolution and up to $1 million in identity theft insurance, identity theft monitoring, dark web surveillance, and more. The paid service also comes with a 30-day free trial.
FreeCreditReport.com is another online company that lets you access your Experian credit report for free. You don’t need a credit card to sign up for a free account, and you can get updates on your report every 30 days when you sign in. FreeCreditReport.com even lets you dispute inaccuracies on your report online and for free, which can help you stop identity theft in its tracks and prevent damage to your credit score.
TransUnion promotes a “free” look at your TransUnion credit report and score, but you only get these perks for free if you sign up for their paid credit monitoring service, which costs $24.99 per month. With their paid service, you’ll also receive reports and updates from all three credit reporting agencies, email alerts that notify you of changes to your reports or credit score, the ability to lock and unlock your TransUnion and Equifax credit reports, up to $1 million in identity theft insurance and more.
Credit Sesame offers a free membership that includes access to your TransUnion credit score, basic credit monitoring, and tools that can help you boost your credit score over time. You can also sign up for personalized alerts that let you know when a change occurs to your score, whether it’s good or bad. Credit Sesame’s free membership even comes with $50,000 in identity theft insurance. If you want to pay a monthly fee, you can also pay for a premium membership that includes unlimited daily credit score updates, a downloadable monthly credit report, Social Security number monitoring, $1 million in identity theft insurance, live dispute resolution and more for $19.95 per month. Credit Sesame also offers two lower-tier credit monitoring plans for $9.95 per month and $15.95 per month.
MyCredit Guide is a free service offered by American Express, although you don’t have to be an American Express customer to sign up. This free account comes with a free VantageScore® 3.0 by TransUnion and a free look at your TransUnion credit report. You can also sign up for alerts that let you know when changes have occurred on your TransUnion report, such as new account openings or address updates.
MyFICO.com doesn’t offer free credit scores or a free look at your credit report, but they do offer three levels of paid credit monitoring that include these features. A basic credit monitoring plan only focuses on your Experian report for $19.95 per month, but you can get three-bureau coverage with an advanced or premier plan for $29.95 per month or $39.95 per month, respectively. MyFICO.com’s middle-tier plan may be the best deal at $29.95 per month based on what you get in return. With this paid service, you’ll receive reports from all three credit bureaus every three months, credit score and report monitoring, $1 million in identity theft insurance, identity restoration, identity monitoring, and more.
RocketHQ is a free service sponsored by Rocket Mortgage and Quicken Loans, which means its main focus is helping consumers improve their credit scores so they can purchase a home. Once you sign up for a free account, you can access your TransUnion credit report and VantageScore® 3.0 by TransUnion. You’ll also get access to free tools and financial education that can help you build a positive credit history that lasts.
What You Need to Know About Credit Reports
- Checking your credit reports is the best way to spot signs of fraud early, including signs of identity theft. According to a 2019 report from Javelin Strategy and Research, more than 14.4 million consumers were victims of identity theft in 2018. In the same year, victims also faced $1.7 billion in out-of-pocket costs related to this type of fraud.
- You can dispute incorrect information and have it removed from your reports. If you do find incorrect or fraudulent information on any of your credit reports, it’s fairly easy to dispute this incorrect information and have it removed. This guide can help you dispute any errors you find, which will help keep your score in better shape over time.
- Paid credit monitoring can take over some of the grunt work for you. If you don’t want to have to remember to check all your credit reports throughout the year, you can also splurge for paid credit monitoring. Companies that offer this service tend to be affordable, and many offer up to $1 million in identity theft insurance on top of ongoing monitoring and support.
- You can also utilize a few free credit report services throughout the year. If you don’t want to pay for credit monitoring, also consider signing up for a handful of free services to make sure you’re covered. You can check all three of your credit reports once per year using AnnualCreditReport.com, for example, then cobble together a few other free services to check each of your reports intermittently for the remainder of the year.
How We Chose the Best Credit Reports
A lot of websites promise to let you see your credit reports for free, but some come with fine print and “gotchas” that most people want to avoid. For example, some companies in this niche use your information so they can heavily market you credit cards and other financial products. Others might offer a free look at your credit score but try to sell you on a pricey credit monitoring plan once they have your information. That’s why we took the time to compare each of the credit report websites to see what they offer and what consumers can expect. Here are the main criteria we considered to come up with this list of the best credit report sites of 2020.
Free Options Available
While some of the companies that made our ranking only offer credit reports if you pay for credit monitoring, we definitely gave preference to websites that offer some sort of free membership. And really, that’s why AnnualCreditReport.com made the top of our ranking. This website lets you check each of your credit reports once per year for free, so it’s a no-brainer for everyone and even those who pay for credit monitoring each year.
We also looked to see which other perks consumers can qualify for with free credit report memberships or paid plans. We gave preference to free credit report services that offer additional benefits like credit score updates, emails or text alerts, and tools that can help you improve your score over time.
Reputation and Affiliation
We also made sure to only include credit reports from reputable companies or from credit reporting agencies themselves. There are a ton of third party websites that offer a free credit report each year, but many sell your information to advertisers or bombard you with ads on their own. We vetted companies carefully to ensure your information would be kept safe and only used for solicitation purposes with your consent.
Summary: Best Credit Reports of 2020
|AnnualCreditReport.com||Checking Credit Reports in One Place|
|Experian||Checking Your Experian Credit Report|
|TransUnion||Checking Your TransUnion Credit Report|
|Credit Sesame||Free Credit Monitoring|
|MyCredit Guide||Free Credit Monitoring from American Express|
|MyFICO||Paid Credit Monitoring|
|RocketHQ||Preparing to Buy a Home|
The post The Best Credit Reports to Check and Improve Your Credit Health appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.