An annual credit report is a free credit report that is provided to individuals once a year by the three major credit reporting bureaus in the United States; Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. In the United States, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the Fair and Accurate Transactions Act (FACT), requires each of the three major credit reporting bureaus to provide one free credit report every twelve months to those who request it.
A credit report is a detailed listing of an individual’s credit history and includes what credit accounts such as car loans, home mortgages, personal loans, and credit cards that an individual has. A credit report also provides a record of an individual’s payment history, credit inquiries, accounts in collections and public information such as foreclosures, bankruptcies and tax liens. It is important to obtain a credit report from each of the credit bureaus, because a report from one agency may contain information not found in the others. Consumers interested in obtaining their free annual credit report should use their preferred search engine to find information about the program online.
While the free annual credit report is a valuable resource that should be reviewed thoroughly, the free annual credit report provided through FCRA and FACT does not provide the consumer with a credit score. A credit score is a numerical value calculated by the credit bureaus that determines a consumer’s credit worthiness. The higher a person's credit score, the less of a credit risk the individual is deemed to be and the greater the likelihood of obtaining credit and of qualifying for more favorable interest rates and terms.
Customers interested in finding out their personal credit score can purchase reports with their credit score through a variety of companies. When obtaining a credit score, it is important to know that there are several different scoring models used by the major credit bureaus. The most commonly used credit scoring method in the United States is known as the FICO Score. The FICO Score was developed by Fair Isaac and Company and ranges from 350 to 850.
Experian, TransUnion and Equifax developed a competitor to the FICO scoring model known as VantageScore. The VantageScore model debuted in 2006 and uses a scoring range of 501-990. Certain lenders and creditors only use the FICO Score when determining credit approvals while others have chosen to also accept the VantageScore. The consumer should pay careful attention to the specific model used to determine his individual credit score to avoid any possible confusion.