It's pretty safe to say that by now almost everybody in America that even remotely pays an interest to their credit knows that they're entitled to a credit report report every year from each of the three credit bureaus. That law was voted in 2005, to protect the consumers and give them the possibility of keeping track of their credit history without necessarily having to pay for it.
What the legislators probably didn't anticipate, is that this law would create a whole new industry based on the false promise of a free credit report. It seems that instead of empowering the consumer, this law has instead created more confusion. There are so many companies out there advertising free credit reports, but as it turns out, you always have to hand out your credit card information!
I don't know about you, but anytime I'm asked for my credit card information, I know there's a payment coming down the line. And if there's a payment, how can the thing be advertised as free? As it turns out, it's a free trial for a credit monitoring service, where the free credit report is the lure that draws unsuspecting customers in.
Once you hand out your credit card information, those companies are banking on the fact that you will forget to cancel before the trial period expires. That's when they will charge you for a service that you probably don't need or worse, that you probably didn't even know you had signed up for.
If you need a totally free, no strings attached credit report, you'll have to go the Annual Credit Report's website (it's a government website) where you'll be able to order your 3 free credit reports (one from each bureau) per year. You don't have to order all 3 at once, so you can conveniently space them 4 months apart and this way have a very good view of how your credit history is evolving.
There's one big drawback to the information provided by this website: you will get your credit reports, but they do not include your credit scores. In fact, credit scores are never free. Getting them always requires a purchase. The law that was passed back in 2005 doesn't specify getting a credit score.
So the companies that you see advertising actually offer a free credit report and score, and many people, since they know about the law, wrongly assume that the companies are referring to the free annual credit report that they're entitled to. And inevitably, a percentage of them will not cancel at the end of the trial period, and that's how those companies make their money.
I'm not saying that credit scores are not worth paying for. The fact of the matter is that there are plenty of good reasons for purchasing your credit reports and / or scores, or to sign up for a credit monitoring service. But it's simply not right to advertise something as being free when in reality it isn't.
If you're considering signing with one of those companies, do your homework and read the fine print so you know exactly how much the service costs and what you get out of it. If you're looking for free credit reports, the type that doesn't require a credit card, look for for free credit reports that don't come tied with a trial period.