Before the pandemic, you were only entitled to get a free copy of your credit report once per year from each of the credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Spacing out those three requests, you could view an official credit report at most once every four months.
But in April 2020, the credit bureaus announced weekly access to free online credit reports, citing the fact that many people were missing credit card, utilities and rent payments due to high unemployment early in the COVID-19 crisis. Now, that pandemic policy is permanent.
Why the credit bureaus are changing their policy
When it was first announced, the free weekly credit reports policy was set to end in April 2021. The date for its expiration was pushed back repeatedly, most recently to the end of 2023, until it was finally made indefinite on Monday.
In their announcement, executives from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion said they are “reinforcing their commitment to the financial health of U.S. consumers” with this move. The idea is that with the ability to access credit reports more regularly, Americans can keep better track of what’s going on with their credit.
Credit reports typically contain information about your accounts, including loans and credit cards. You can see your balances, your payment history and your credit limits, as well as past addresses, employers, phone numbers and credit inquiries.
Accessing your credit report can be helpful when you’re trying to understand your odds of approval for loans. You should also scan your report every once in a while to ensure everything is accurate. If you see errors, it could be an indication of identity theft or inaccurate credit reporting.
How to get a free credit report
To pull your credit report, you can use the government website AnnualCreditReport.com. The process should take less than 10 minutes, but you will have to enter some information including your address, Social Security number, phone number and date of birth.
You can either request one credit report, or you can get all three at once by checking multiple boxes. In total, you're now eligible for over 150 free credit reports a year. (As part of a settlement in connection with its massive 2017 data breach, Equifax also offers people up to six additional free credit reports per year through 2027.)
Keep in mind that your credit report does not show your credit score, so you’ll need to follow a different set of steps if you’re hoping to check your credit score alongside your report.