How to Get a Free Credit Score Report

Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further

A credit report is a detailed overview of your credit history, including your payment history, lines of credit, and how consistent you’ve been with paying off your credit balances. Three national credit bureaus issue credit reports: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. While your credit report doesn’t contain your credit score, they help lenders understand your risk tolerance and eligibility for things like loans, insurance policies, jobs, and credit cards.

Your credit score, on the other hand, is a three-digit number that shows lenders how risky a borrower you are and is a crucial component of your financial health. Your credit score plays a key role in determining what loans you qualify for and the interest rate you will pay on all types of things, from mortgages to renter’s insurance to car loans. Your credit score comes from the information contained in your credit report, such as your payment history, credit utilization ratio, and age of credit, and is calculated using an algorithm. As critical as this little number is, many Americans are in the dark when it comes to their credit scores.

Fortunately, federal law entitles citizens to get a free credit report every year from the three major credit bureaus. Below, we’ll cover how to get a credit report, so you can understand where your financial health lies. Read end-to-end to learn how to get a free credit report and FICO score, or use the provided links to jump to a section of your choosing.

The Importance of Your Credit Report

Your credit report houses all sorts of pertinent information about your financial background, including your credit payment history, credit utilization ratio, and age of credit. Credit scores have become such a huge influence in the lives of consumers that millions are greatly disadvantaged by their lack of knowledge about their scores. In fact, roughly 26 million Americans are “credit invisible,” meaning they don’t have a credit report with one of the three national credit bureaus. On top of that, an additional 19 million Americans have credit scores that are unscorable by a credit-scoring model. Not having a credit score can make it difficult to get approved for a loan for a mortgage, car, or home improvement project because lenders will have no way to assess your risk level as a borrower. 

Knowing how to get a credit report can help you gain a better understanding of your financial health. As important as the information on your credit report is, you need to make it a priority to get your hands on it to help you not only find out what your current score actually is, but what is affecting it, and if there are any errors on it that are unfairly dropping your score.

Why is Your Credit Score Report So Helpful?

Considering the importance of credit scores on your financial portfolio, it makes sense to have a clear understanding of your credit’s health, which can only be identified on your credit score report. The information in your credit report is used to generate your credit score, which is what your potential lenders will see before they decide to approve you for a loan.

Your credit report includes important financial information, such as:

  • The types of credit that you use
  • How long your accounts have been open
  • How much money you owed
  • Whether you’ve paid your bills in full and on time
  • How efficiently you paid your bills
  • Late payments

It gives lenders information about how much credit you have used, and if you are looking for new sources of credit. There are a variety of lenders you might come across that look at your credit report to conduct business, such as:

  • Banks and financial institutions
  • Landlords
  • Car dealers
  • Credit card companies
  • Insurance companies
  • Department stores
  • Cell phone and cable providers
  • Utility providers
  • Employers

Your credit score has a huge influence on lenders’ decisions to approve or deny your loan applications. Many facets of your borrowing habits will be outlined on your credit report. Lenders use the information on your credit report to gauge their credit decisions on their applicants and customers from credit reporting agencies, including Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. Lenders and other companies use the information in your credit score report to assess your applications for credit, loans, insurance, and even renting a residence.

How to Get a Free Credit Report

Many consumers wonder how to get a free credit score report. According to FTC.gov, the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires the three national credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion—to provide free copies of credit reports once every 12 months to consumers who request one. They must also set reasonable prices for scores for consumers who need to retrieve their credit report more than once per year.  Here are some guidelines on how to get a credit report:

  • One way to access your credit report for free is by visiting the official government website AnnualCreditReport.com or by calling their toll-free number at 1.877.322.8228. Through this website, you can request your free credit report from one of the three bureaus, or have one of each credit report sent at the same time, depending on your intended use. For example, if you want to verify that all of your information, such as name, address, credit accounts, and amount owed, is accurate, you might want to request all three at once to compare. Or, you can spread out each credit report by requesting one every four months, for example.
  • Aside from obtaining a free credit score from one of the three national credit bureaus, you can also gain access to your credit report for free through other means, such as through Mint. At Mint, we team up with TransUnion to provide free credit scores. Mint’s free credit report and score simply requires you to verify your identity and once verified, you’ll have your free credit report summary within minutes. Through Mint, you can also enjoy credit monitoring, which provides credit alerts whenever TransUnion receives new credit information from any of your creditors.

For those wondering how to get a free credit score report, you can use the government’s free website AnnualCreditReport.com, or get your free credit report from websites like Mint.

taking out a home mortgage, you might want to view your credit report right away. There are three ways you can request a credit report: online, through the phone, and by mail. Here’s how long each method takes:

  • Requesting a free credit report online: When you request a free credit report online, such as through AnnualCreditReport.com or through Mint, you can get your credit report immediately. 
  • Requesting a free credit report through phone: If you order your free credit report by calling 1.877.322.8228, your credit report will be processed and mailed to your address within 15 days.
  • Requesting a free credit report through mail: You can write a letter requesting your annual credit report or fill out and mail the Annual Credit Report Request Form to the following address:

Annual Credit Report Request Service

P.O. Box 105218

Atlanta, GA 30348-5281

Requesting a free credit report through mail will be processed and mailed to your address within 15 days of receipt, which can bring your total wait time up to two to three weeks for delivery.

What to Do While You’re Waiting for Your Credit Report

Whether you called to request a free credit report or mailed in an annual credit report request form, you can take a few actions to pass the time.

Check your credit score

Checking your credit score is important for a variety of reasons. It gives you an overview of your financial health, can help you spot any errors, and can show you areas of improvement. As you review your credit score, you may come across two different types: FICO and Vantage.

  • FICO Credit Score: Fair Isaac Corporation created the FICO scoring model to provide an industry-standard for determining credit-worthiness that was fair for both consumers and lenders. FICO is the most widely used credit score and uses credit scoring models that are bureau specific, meaning there is a separate scoring model for Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Because each credit bureau has different information on file, your credit score might not be the same. However, in most cases, your score only differs by a few points—anything more might be due to a mistake. 

Most FICO scores range between 300-850— the higher the score, the less risky you may seem to lenders. A “good” credit score, according to FICO, is anywhere between 670-739. In order to get a FICO credit score, you need to have at least one account open for at least six months or longer, along with at least one account that has been reported to a credit bureau within the last six months.

  • Vantage Credit Score: The VantageScore Model was created by the three credit reporting companies— Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Together, industry-leading experts created a credit scoring model using credit report information from each credit bureau. Earlier versions of the VantageScore have a credit range between 501 and 990. The new VantageScore 3.0 uses the same credit score range as the FICO credit score, which is 300-850. Similar to the FICO credit score, a “good” credit score is anywhere between 670-739.

Unlike the FICO credit score, Vantage’s credit score accepts consumers who are new to the credit market, who would otherwise be invisible to lenders. Because lenders from all three credit bureaus can use the VantageScore, credit scores should remain fairly consistent. The only time a change would occur is if a lender provides a new piece of data to a credit bureau.

With Mint, you can check your credit score for free as many times as you’d like without hurting your credit score. Mint works by using the VantageScore model, which is determined by six different factors: age and types of credit, credit utilization, payment history, total balances and debt, recent credit inquiries, and available credit. Check your free credit score with Mint today to see where your credit score stands.

Understand your credit score

Before you work on increasing your credit score, it’s important to know what your credit score looks at. There are a variety of credit score myths out there that you might believe, which is why understanding what can impact your credit score can help you make thoughtful actions to improve your score.

Here’s a list of what most credit scores measure:

  • Payment history: Your payment history is just one piece of your credit history. Your payment history looks at your past credit payments and whether they’ve been paid on time. Missed or late payments can tell lenders that it might be risky to lend to you because you may miss a future payment. Paying off your credit balance on time in full, every time can help keep your credit score in check.
  • Age of credit: The longer the credit history, the higher your credit score might be. This is because the age of your oldest account provides more data and shows lenders you have more experience managing credit. 
  • Types of credit: Your credit mix, such as credit cards, loans, mortgages, and retail accounts, can show lenders you have experience managing and paying off multiple types of credit.
  • Credit utilization: Credit utilization is the amount of money you owe compared to your available line of credit. Often expressed as a ratio, high credit utilization may make lenders view you as risky because you’re borrowing close to your limit. For example, if your credit line is $10,000, and you bought a used car for $7,000 with a credit card, your credit utilization ratio will be 70%. Experts believe you should have a credit utilization ratio of no more than 30 percent of your credit limit.
  • New credit accounts: Opening a new credit account can result in a hard inquiry, which can hurt your credit score because it shows that a lender is looking at your credit report.

Understanding what credit scores measure can help you make smart financial decisions, such as making credit card payments on time, maintaining a low credit utilization ratio, and effectively managing different types of credit.

What to Do If There’s an Error on Your Credit Report

An error on your credit report can deal a significant blow on your credit score and report. An error on your credit report can happen for a variety of reasons, such as a careless mistake, inputting wrong information, or even identity theft. Regularly checking your credit score can help you look for any discrepancies that can damage your credit score. Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you can issue a credit dispute for any information you think is incorrect without negatively impacting your score. If you notice an error on your credit report, follow these steps:

  • Step 1: Submit a letter in writing or online to the credit reporting company that details the information you think is inaccurate. With your letter, provide any copies (not original files) that support your claim, and information such as your name, address, and the information you want to be removed or corrected on your credit report.
  • Step 2: Wait for the credit reporting company to respond. A response typically takes around 30 days from the day they receive your letter. During this time, they will investigate your claim and send the information you sent to the lenders that provided the information. If the lender finds there was a mistake, they must inform all three credit bureaus.
  • Step 3: Write a letter to the lender or information provider that may have made a mistake detailing the item you think is wrong in your credit report. Provide any copies of important information that supports your dispute and have them review your claim.
  • Step 4: Review your results. Each credit reporting company is required to provide you with the results of your investigation. If the dispute wasn’t resolved, you can have the credit bureau make a note on your future credit reports that there was a dispute.

As stated, disputing a credit report doesn’t hurt your credit score. If you believe there is an error on your credit report, take the time to resolve the error. Not doing so can lower your credit score, which can make it challenging to get approved for a loan or urge lenders to tack on higher interest rates for loans.

Mint.com is the Best Place to Go for Your Credit Score Report

Credit scores are an essential component of your financial portfolio. Now Mint offers a new feature that allows you to access your free credit report summary to help you understand what is influencing your credit score so you can learn how to improve it. You’ll be able to find out your credit score for free without ever having to use a credit card.

This new feature is just an extension of Mint’s commitment to giving consumers like you access to critical information that influences your financial health. All you have to do to get your free credit score from Mint is log into your Mint account and get started. With Mint, you can also work toward improving your credit and financing standing overall, create a budget, and stay on top of bills. If you’re not yet a member of Mint, learn more at Mint.com about becoming a member to gain access to all their helpful financial tools today!

Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further

Mint

Mint is passionate about helping you to achieve financial goals through education and with powerful tools, personalized insights, and much more. More from Mint

Source: mint.intuit.com

Guide to Dental Loans

Finding out you need dental work can be scary — and scary expensive. Still, the pain and the price could get even worse if you put off getting care. And sometimes delaying just isn’t an option.

If you don’t have enough money stashed away in your emergency fund, and your insurance won’t cover all your costs, you may want to chew on the pros and cons of taking out a dental loan.

What Are Dental Loans?

Medical financing loans are personal loans that are used to pay for a variety of medical expenses, including dental work and related expenses.

Whether you’re feeling overwhelmed by the upfront cost of a root canal or crown, or you expect to pay a substantial amount over time for braces, aligners, or implants, a dental loan can be a quick and convenient way to get the financing you need.

With a dental loan, you can borrow money to pay for your care, then make monthly payments until the loan balance is paid off.

How Do Dental Loans Work?

Dental loans are usually unsecured personal loans, which means you don’t have to put up collateral to secure the loan. Approval for a loan for dental work will be based on your creditworthiness.

If you qualify, you’ll receive a lump sum of money that’s to be repaid in monthly installments consisting of principal and interest. Since dental loans typically have fixed interest rates, your payments should be the same amount each month throughout the repayment period.

What Can Dental Loans Be Used For?

You typically can use a personal loan to pay for just about anything as long as it’s legal and within the terms of your loan agreement. For example, you can use a personal loan to pay for wedding expenses, home improvements, or legal fees.

Costs related to your dental care are included in common uses for personal loans. These might include treatment — even for expensive elective or cosmetic procedures that may not be covered completely or at all by dental insurance, over-the-counter or prescription medications you might require, transportation. You can even use the funds for the milkshake and soup you might need after your procedure.

Here are approximate costs for some common procedures that could be paid for with a dental loan:

Porcelain Crown

The cost of a crown can vary based on the materials used to make it, as well as the size, shape, and location of the tooth that’s being replaced. Costs for an all-porcelain crown can range from $800 to $3,000. Dental insurance may cover some of that expense, unless the crown is strictly for cosmetic purposes.

Whitening

A basic teeth cleaning may be covered by dental insurance as part of your annual exam. But an in-office teeth bleaching (which can cost $300 to $500 or more) or a laser whitening (which averages $1,000), likely won’t be covered by insurance.

Root Canal

The cost of a root canal could range from about $700 to $1,800 if you don’t have dental insurance. The cost can depend on several factors, including which tooth is being worked on and if the work is done by a specialist. Insurance may take the cost down to between $200 and $1,500.

Aligners

Teeth aligners can be pretty pricey no matter which type you buy, but if you go with an in-office treatment, you can expect to pay between $2,500 and $8,000. At-home brands range from about $1,200 to $3,300. Your insurance provider may pay for some of those costs, but you should check your coverage before ordering.

Veneers

Veneers can range from $470 to $2,000 per tooth, depending on the type and how much prep work is involved. The cost generally is not covered by dental insurance.

Typical Dental Loan Application Process

Your dentist may offer an in-house financing plan to help with costs — especially if he or she specializes in cosmetic procedures. Or the practice may partner with a lender who provides these types of loans. You aren’t obligated to use your dentist’s financing plan, but you may want to check out what the practice is offering. You also can go online to compare dental loan offers from traditional and online lenders.

Compare Offers: Choosing the Right Loan

When you start shopping for loans for dental work, you can go to individual lenders’ websites to see what they have to offer or use a comparison site to conveniently check out multiple lenders.

Getting prequalified with a few different lenders can help you get the clearest idea of what’s available and what’s best for your needs. Lenders typically use a soft credit pull during the prequalification process, so it won’t affect your credit score.

Here are a few things to watch for as you shop for financing:

Annual Percentage Rate

A loan’s annual percentage rate (APR) tells you the amount of interest you can expect to pay on your loan over the course of one year, including any fees or charges you might incur. Because it gives you a complete picture of the cost of the loan (as opposed to just looking at the interest rate), the APR can be a useful tool for comparing various loan offers.

Recommended: APR vs. Interest Rate

Fees

Fees can add up quickly, and they can add to the cost of your loan. Some common fees to look out for could include an application fee, origination fee, late payment fee, returned payment fee, and a prepayment penalty. Low-fee or fee-free loans may save you money over the life of the loan.

Loan Amounts

Some lenders may have loan minimums that require you to borrow more than you need. Before you go loan shopping, you may want to get dental procedure cost estimates to get an idea of how much you’ll have to borrow. Then you can look for lenders who are willing to lend that amount.

Loan Terms

Another important factor to consider is the loan term, or how long you’ll be given to repay the money you’ve borrowed. Of course, you’ll want to find a loan term that feels comfortable (a longer-term can equal lower payments). But a longer-term also could increase the amount you pay in interest over the life of the loan. You may want to think about how the loan length could affect your future financial goals.

Eligibility Requirements

Before you settle on a particular personal loan for dental work, you may want to check out the lender’s eligibility requirements. In the process of checking your personal loan rate, most sites will review your credit scores, credit history, income, and other personal financial information to determine whether you qualify for a particular interest rate or other loan terms.

Many lenders will accept a fair credit score (a FICO® Score of 580 to 669 is considered fair), but a good FICO Score (670 to 739) could qualify you for a more favorable interest rate and other terms. If you have a poor score (lower than 580), lenders may consider you to be a high lending risk, which could affect your eligibility. You may be able to find a loan, but the interest rate will likely be more expensive.

Approval and Funding Timeline

If you can’t get your treatment until you can pay for it — and you need it soon — a quick approval time and rapid funding also could be an important considerations. One of the major pluses of using an online lender can be the convenience and fast application time. If you have all your information ready, it can be easy to apply using an online form. And if you qualify, the money generally can be available within a few days.

Customer Service

Does the lender have a reputation for good customer service? You may want to check into how various lenders deal with consumer questions and problems. At the same time, you can see if there are any perks to building a relationship with a lender that might benefit you in the future.

Applying for a Dental Loan

If you find a lender and loan terms you like, and you’re ready to apply, your next step will be to complete a formal application. You can expect to be asked to verify your identity, income, and current address, and it can make things easier if you gather up the necessary documents ahead of time. You’ll probably need your driver’s license, Social Security number, recent pay stubs and/or bank statements, and a utility bill or some other proof of address.

Once you apply, most lenders will do a hard credit check, which may cause your credit score to drop by a few points temporarily. The lender will evaluate your ability to repay the loan and, if you qualify, your loan will be funded.

Pros and Cons of Dental Loans

Whether you need money for a one-time emergency procedure or for a series of treatments that could add up to a big expense, a dental loan may be an option worth considering. Here are some pros and cons that could help you decide if a personal loan makes sense for your situation:

Pros

Convenient Online Comparison

Applying for a personal loan online can be convenient and quick. Many lenders offer personal loans that can be used for dental treatment, so you can shop for the loan amount and terms that best suit your needs.You may be able to get your approval within a few hours (maybe even a few minutes) and you could receive your money within a few days.

Competitive Terms

If you have a solid credit history, a stable income, and fair or better credit scores, you may qualify for a competitive interest rate and a repayment period you feel comfortable with. (The interest rate on a dental loan is typically lower than the interest rate on a credit card.)

Fixed Payments

With a dental loan, borrowers typically receive a lump sum of money that is repaid in fixed monthly payments. This can make it easier to budget and manage your payments.

Cons

Fees and Penalties

Some dental treatment loans come with fees and penalties that can drive up the overall cost of borrowing. You may be able to keep your costs down, though, by finding a low- or no-fee loan.

Alternatives May Cost Less

If you can qualify for a credit card with a low or 0% promotional rate for purchases, it may be a less expensive way to borrow money — at least for a while. Zero-interest credit cards charge no interest during an introductory period, which typically lasts from six to 18 months. Paying the balance in full within the promotional period is essential to making the most of an offer like this.

Fixed Payments

Having a fixed monthly payment can make budgeting easier, but it doesn’t provide flexibility if you can’t make that payment for some reason. A different financing option, such as a credit card, might offer more adaptable minimum monthly payments.

Pros and Cons of Dental Loans

Pros Cons
Easy to compare lenders online. Some dental loans have fees and penalties that can increase the overall cost.
Terms are competitive and interest rates are generally lower than on credit cards. Alternatives like credit cards with a 0% interest introductory rate may be less expensive.
Fixed monthly payments can make it easy to budget for the expense. Fixed payments don’t allow for budget shortfalls.

Alternatives to Personal Loans

If you can’t afford the dental work you need, there are options besides dental loans that you might want to check out. A few to consider include:

Credit Cards

If you already have a low-interest credit card, you may want to compare the interest you’d pay if you used that card vs. the cost of a dental loan. Or you might want to consider the pros and cons of applying for a low or 0% introductory-rate credit card — if you think you can pay off the balance during the designated promotional period. If you end up using a high percentage of your available credit, however, your credit score could be negatively affected.

Dental Office Financing

Your dentist may offer some type of in-house financing to patients who can’t afford the treatments they want or need. The practice might partner with a lender that offers loans for dental procedures, for example, or the dental office might suggest a medical credit card with a low or 0% introductory rate. These offers may be worth reviewing and comparing to similar options, as long as you’re clear on all the repayment terms.

Grants

There are grant programs aimed at helping seniors, adults and children living in low-income households, and those who have special needs. The Dental Lifeline Network is a nonprofit organization that provides access to dental care for people who can’t afford it. Some dentists also may offer partial grants to attract new patients who need extensive and expensive treatment.

Explore Personal and Dental Loans with SoFi

A dental loan can be a quick and convenient solution if you need cash to pay for an unexpected dental procedure or an elective treatment you’ve been thinking about for a while (like braces, aligners or implants). Whether you’re considering an expensive cosmetic procedure or you need a crown or root canal ASAP, SoFi may offer a personal loan rate that works for your unique financial situation.

There are no fees with SoFi Personal Loans, and borrowers have access to customer support seven days a week. The application can be completed online, and you can check your rate in just one minute.

Take the pain out of dental costs and check your rates on a personal loan from SoFi

FAQ

What credit score do you need for dental implant loans?

Many lenders will offer a dental loan to a borrower with a fair credit score. (A FICO Score of 580 to 669 is considered fair). But a good FICO Score (670 to 739) could improve your interest rate and other terms. If you have a poor score (lower than 580), lenders may consider you to be a higher risk, which could affect your eligibility.

Can you get your teeth fixed with no money?

You may be able to find a research clinic or university dental program that provides free services to volunteer patients who need care. And some dental practices may occasionally offer free care to low-income patients. There are also grants that could help cover costs.

Can you put dental work on a credit card?

Yes, you can use a regular credit card or a medical credit card to pay for dental work. But if you come close to using up the balance on your card, it could affect your credit utilization ratio, which can have a negative impact on your credit scores.


SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), and by SoFi Lending Corp. NMLS #1121636 , a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law (License # 6054612) and by other states. For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

Checking Your Rates: To check the rates and terms you may qualify for, SoFi conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. A hard credit pull, which may impact your credit score, is required if you apply for a SoFi product after being pre-qualified.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Photo credit: iStock/Sanga Park
SOPL0222004

Source: sofi.com