The Fair Credit Reporting Act of 2004 has made it necessary for all credit bureaus to provide free credit reports to the public once a year. By September 1, 2005, all Americans were entitled to obtain their credit reports once a year free of charge. The credit reports can be from the three major American credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and Trans Union.
The official website to go to for free credit reports is http://www.annualcreditreport.com. This site provides instant online credit report after you file an online application giving your name, address, and date of birth and social security number. Further clarification and modifications in the credit report are provided by the Federal Trade Commission website that which hosts http://www.ftc.gov/credit.
It should be noted that the above is the only official government website providing free online credit reports. Other websites purport themselves to be official by coining similar names similar to the above and claim to give free online credit reports. Most of these websites do provide credit reports but without a credit score. You also have to pay a fee. However, there are some genuine websites that do provide free credit reports once a year as per the FCRA rules.
A free online credit report contains four major sections – a person’s identification, public records, credit history and information about inquiries from creditors. The credit report would carry the FICO score, which may range from 200 to 850. A credit report of 500+ is considered good; while above 720 is considered excellent. It is this scores that creditors base their opinion on whether to give a loan or not. Credit reports also contain information of any financial upheavals like missed payments, etc.
The availability of free online credit reports has made them all the more accessible to the general public. This favors the government, as people become more aware of their credit problems and try to repair them. This helps build building up national economy. Businesses use these reports to constantly monitor their progress, while the general public uses them to acquire loans, insurances, etc.