Ralph writes:

I’d like to know how to get a free copy of my credit report from the agencies.

A recent federal law gives consumers access to their credit reports; however, it costs extra to obtain your credit score. Your credit score is not an actual component of your credit report.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months.

There is never a need to go through any other agency to obtain your credit report. This is an official, government-approved site. If you’d like, you can obtain reports from all three credit reporting agencies at once. Or, you can stagger your requests, possibly requesting one report every four months from a different agency. There are three ways to obtain your credit report:

You will need to provide some basic information, including your social security number, and you may need to provide some personal financial information. If you plan to check your report online, be wary of impostor sites. Be absolutely certain that you have reached AnnualCreditReport.com.

It’s important to obtain a copy of your credit report at regular intervals. The credit reporting agencies are not infallible, and neither are your creditors. People make mistakes, and mistakes on your credit report can cost you money. If you suspect an error, read how to dispute credit report errors.

When you request your free credit report, you’ll also be given a chance to purchase your credit score for about $8. Your credit score is a single number that serves as a snapshot for your overall creditworthiness, a sort of summary of your entire credit report. To learn how your credit score is computed, read my anatomy of a credit score.

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