Federal law requires each of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – to give you a free credit report every 12 months if you ask for it. They also make it easy to accomplish many credit-related tasks right from your computer.  It is the only source for your free credit reports.   Go to

The Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau sites contain extensive information about credit reports, your rights, and the laws that guarantee these rights. You can learn more about your free reports at the Federal Trade Commission’s website and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s website.

What is a credit report?

When you make a payment on a credit card or loan, the business that gave you the loan or credit keeps a record of how much and often you pay, as well as the credit limits and loan balances. Those businesses and other sources may report your credit, loan and payment history to one or more credit reporting companies. The credit reporting companies each combine the information they receive about your different credit, loan and payment activities into a credit report. The credit reporting companies prepare credit reports for people in the U.S. Since not all businesses report to all three credit reporting companies, the information on your credit reports may vary.

A credit report is an organized list of the information related to your credit activity. Credit reports may include:

  • A list of businesses that have given you credit or loans
  • The total amount for each loan or credit limit for each credit card
  • How often you paid your credit or loans on time, and the amount you paid
  • Any missed or late payments as well as bad debts


Credit reports may also include

  • A list of businesses that have obtained your credit report within a certain time period
  • Your current and former names, address(es) and/or employers
  • Any bankruptcies or other public record information

What Is A Credit Score?

Credit scores are the result of mathematical formulas that use the information in your credit report to calculate a value which suggests how likely you are to pay your bills in the future.

The credit scores you get from different companies will not be the same. There are a number of reasons for that:

  • There are many different formulas used to calculate credit scores. The differences in the formulas may lead to differences in your credit scores.
  • Companies may produce scores that give results on different scales.
  • Businesses don’t always report to every credit reporting company, and even when they do, they may send their information on different days. This means that on any given day, the information that one credit reporting company has may differ from the credit activity being reported to another credit reporting company.


Businesses use credit scores to estimate how likely you are to pay back loans or services. People with higher credit scores may be more likely to pay back their debts. People with lower credit scores may be less likely to pay their debts.


Why don’t my free credit reports include credit scores?


Your credit report and your credit score are not the same thing. Your credit report contains information that a credit reporting company has received about you. Your credit score is calculated by plugging the information in your credit report into a credit score formula. You may have multiple credit scores based upon who provided the score, and whether the company providing the score used their own scoring model or used a model available from a third party.

Federal law gives you the right to ask for a copy of your credit report from each nationwide credit reporting company every year for free. However, the law does not require the credit reporting companies to provide a free credit score.

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