Consumers from coast to coast will soon be entitled to free credit reports every year. A recent amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each of the three national consumer reporting agencies—Equifax, Experian and Trans Union—to provide each consumer with one free credit report every 12 months, upon request. Eligibility for free reports is rolling out on a regional basis, from west to east. Consumers in western states, including Montana, became eligible on December 1, 2004. Eligibility for consumers in all Midwestern states, including the remaining states in the Ninth District, began on March 1. By September 1, consumers in all U.S. states and territories will be eligible to request free reports.
Credit reports include information on debts and credit cards, bill-paying records and bankruptcy histories. They do not indicate consumers' credit scores, which can be obtained separately for a fee. Consumers typically review their credit reports on occasion, when applying for loans, but many financial counselors recommend an annual review to check for errors or unauthorized activities. To request a free credit report from any or all of the three agencies listed above, visit https://www.annualcreditreport.com or call (877) 322-8228.