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Verdict: We’ve all seen the commercials and, at one time or another, have had the jingle stuck in our heads for FreeCreditReport.com. Certainly, the website represents one way to get a free credit report (as long as you cancel within the trail period). But is it the best way? No.
Overview: Freecreditreport.com permits you to receive your free Experian credit report — one of three major credit reporting agencies in the U.S. — and your Experian PLUS credit score. If you don’t cancel within during the trial period, you’ll be billed for enrollment in Triple Advantage Credit Monitoring from the company and will pay $14.95 per month until you cancel membership.
FreeCreditReport.com may have memorable commercials, but it’s mostly hype to sell a credit monitoring service, competitive with the credit monitoring services offered (for a fee) by many major credit card companies. Most credit card companies also offer identity theft protection for unlawful charges on their particular card, so you probably don’t need FreeCreditReport.com’s services in that regard. If you want a truly free credit report from all three agencies every 12 months, simply go to www.annualcreditreport.com.
How the website works: You’ll be required to give FreeCreditReport.com credit card information to activate your membership into Triple Advantage Credit Monitoring. You’ll then receive a link to your Experian credit report and Experian credit score. It’s important to note that this is not the industry-standard FICO score (issued by the Fair Isaac Company), which most banks and lenders use to determine creditworthiness. You can find out more about the different types of credit scores here.
It states clearly on the front page of FreeCreditReport.com that signing up for your free credit report enrolls you in a free seven-day trial membership with Triple Advantage Credit Monitoring. You can cancel easily by calling Customer Care at 1-888-829-6560. The number is clearly listed in bold type on the FAQ page of the website. You’ll have to listen to a sales pitch regarding why you should keep the service. Be strong. Say no. The representative may offer you discounts.
Keep in mind, you can get the same service from your credit card for the same fee, or less. For instance, CreditSecure, available to American Express CardMembers, lets you obtain all three of your credit reports and offers credit monitoring and more — all for $11.95/month.
Benefits: Unlike many other companies offering “free” credit reports, FreeCreditReport.com is not doing anything underhanded; it’s typical to offer bonuses for free trail memberships — and to charge people if they forget to cancel within the specified time frame. The fine print on the front page of the web site informs consumers that they must cancel within nine days of enrollment (not seven) to avoid incurring charges. You will not get any money back on a pro-rated basis if you don’t cancel within nine days; you’ll be charged the full $14.95 for the first month.
If you choose to remain enrolled in Triple Advantage Credit Monitoring, what does that $14.95 per month get you?
As a member of Triple Advantage Credit Monitoring, you’ll get:
- Unlimited access to your Experian® Credit Report (You must notify FreeCreditReport.com to “refresh” the information on your credit report each time you wish to view it)
- Daily credit monitoring and alerts to changes in your credit report to help you spot identity theft faster
- Bi-monthly score monitoring and alerts to drastic changes in your credit score
- Fraud resolution support
- $50,000 product guarantee (except in New York, where prohibited by law)
You won’t get:
- Free access to your Equifax and TransUnion credit reports and scores. FreeCreditReport.com also offers another service, for an additional fee: the Three Bureau Report and Scores service.
- Free Experian Credit Report and PLUS credit score
- Easy to cancel with a quick, toll-free phone call
- Requires a credit card to obtain your free credit report
- Does not provide all three credit reports for free
- If you forget to cancel during the trial period, you’ll be billed $14.95/month
- Some users reported glitches on the website that prevented them from viewing their free credit report
It’s worth adding that reviewers on other sites, such as About.com and epinions.com, had technical problems logging into the website at times to view their credit information and credit report.
Also, your Experian credit report is only accessible for 30 days; you’ll want to print a copy or save it to your computer’s hard drive for future reference.
Remember: The best way to obtain your free credit reports from all three major credit agencies once every 12 months is through www.annualcreditreport.com.