Even though everyone in United States now has a right to obtain a free credit report annually from each of the three main credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, there is still significant doubt among consumers as to whether they can get a credit report without having a credit card.
In fact having a credit card is not required to get your credit report. Everyone is free to have a look at his financial records without any charge whatsoever once a year. This is mandated by law. However many (in fact almost all) of online credit report providers that offer free credit card reports use credit cards as a method to verify the identity. This is one of the main reasons for the confusion. Consumers should be wary of using such services and they must go through the small print.
In any case there is no need for a credit card to obtain your free credit report and you can bypass the need to go through other online sites when you can get the credit report from the legally mandated source site. All you have to do is to visit the central website maintained by the three main credit bureaus to provide the free credit reports according to the provisions of The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act (FACT). This website is named annualcreditreport.com and once you complete the form there, you can almost immediately see your credit report.
You will be asked for proof of identity but it will not be your credit card. You will be asked to provide your name, address, date of birth, and social security number. If you have changed residence you will be asked to provide previous address. In addition the credit bureau from which you requested the report will ask you to answer a question, the answer to which only you may know. Questions may change from one bureau to another, but they will most likely comprise employment history, previous addresses or telephone numbers.
You can also request your free credit report through the toll free telephone number or through the mailing address provided by the three credit bureaus. Using that method you will get the report within 15 days of the request.
Federal Trade Commissions which mandated the law for receiving your annual credit report free of charge has given notice that only one website has the authority to provide your free annual credit report. That website is annualcreditreport.com. They also warn of other websites that offer free credit reports, but with the catch of having to signup for credit monitoring. It should be noted that the only true way of receiving your report without having to register for other services is to contact the credit bureaus directly. This is done either via the website, telephone or through postage mail.
Since you can request the credit report from each of the three credit bureaus annually you can space the requests out instead of requesting all three report at once. That way you will not have to wait 12 months for your next free credit report. Note, however, that the three bureaus have different sources for the information they include in their reports. Therefore, their credit reports for the same person tend to differ from each other.