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The last time I watched cable (probably in an airport while I was travelling, I don't have a TV or cable at home) I saw that freecreditreport.com was still doing those commercials with the annoying jingles. While they may be dominating the airwaves and cable market, they actually don't provide a free credit report. See the disclaimer at the top of their website:
When you order your $1 Credit Report and Score here, you will begin your 7-day trial membership in freecreditreport.com. If you don't cancel your membership within the 7-day trial period*, you will be billed $16.99 for each month that you continue your membership. You may cancel your trial membership anytime within the trial period without charge.
How many people do you think they get to pay $192 a year to “monitor” their credit report? Far too many, based on the number of ads they can afford to run on CNN. In fact, people have been deceived so often that the FTC set up a website to set the record straight:
The Federal Trade Commission has received complaints from consumers who thought they were ordering their free annual credit report, and yet couldn't get it without paying fees or buying other services. TV ads, email offers, or online search results may tout “free” credit reports, but there is only one authorized source for a truly free credit report.
So how can you check your credit report for free? By going to the only legitimate credit report site: https://www.annualcreditreport.com/
Here, you can get reports from the three major credit card bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion), once a year, as required by the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT Act) passed in 2003. A credit report
Okay so you can get your report once a year for free, but how can you check it three times a year for free?
By only checking 1 bureau every 4 months. Setup an alert in Google Calendar or whatever scheduling/calendar program you use for January 8, May 8, and September 8. Call each event a different credit bureau. Then, make the events repeat annually. Like so:
You can have it email you as well to remind you to get it done (part of automating your finances, something I'll be writing about soon).
And that's it. Using a simple calendar/time hack, you can keep an eye on your credit report throughout the year for exactly $0. And that's really the best price, isn't it?