The frequency at which you can obtain a free credit report will depend on how and why you are requesting it. In the United States, you can request one from each of the national credit reporting agencies at least once per year. You may also request a report each time you are denied credit because of your credit history.
In the U.S., you may get one credit report each year, from each national credit-reporting bureau, without spending a dime. Upon your request, TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian must each provide you with one free credit report every 12 months. You may request it online, over the phone, or by mail.
You could request a credit report from each credit bureau at the same time. However, it may be advantageous to spread your requests out, obtaining a different one every few months. In doing so, you may find it easier to stay abreast of changes in your credit file.
If you are denied credit, you have the right to receive a copy of your credit report for free. A company that denies you credit, for this reason, must provide you with information regarding the credit-reporting agency it used to evaluate your credit. You must request your report from that particular credit-reporting agency. After you receive this information, you have a 30-day period in which to make your request. If you allow more than 30 days to pass, you can still get your credit report; however, you may have to pay for it.
Keep in mind that you may find information on one credit report that is not present on a report from another agency. This is due to the fact that credit bureaus are not required to share or list the same information. As such, it is wise to obtain a report from each agency, especially if you will be applying for a large amount of credit in the near future.
To receive your free credit report, you will have to verify your identity. Generally, you will be asked to provide your current contact information, birth date, and Social Security number. You may also have to provide previous addresses and other identification as part of the verification process.
If you live outside the United States, you may be able to obtain a free credit report by signing up for a trial membership with a credit reference agency or a finance-related company. In the United Kingdom, however, you may also obtain one free online credit report each year. As credit reporting laws differ with each country, you can expect the process for obtaining a report to be a bit different, depending on where you live.