Welcome back to “Mike Meets”! In this series, the SALT editorial team makes our intern, Mike Restiano, try financial products he’s never used before (jealous?). Mike will highlight what he likes and dislikes about each—and whether you should check it out for yourself. This week, Mike is investigating AnnualCreditReport.com.
MY FIRST RESPONSE
When Ryan told me to investigate credit reports this week, I had to resist the urge to break out into song. I watch a lot of Jerry Springer and Maury in my spare time (don’t judge me), so I see a lot of ads for FreeCreditReport.com. I know their jingle by heart.
He mentioned a different website, AnnualCreditReport.com, but I figured since FreeCreditReport.com was so familiar, I’d just go there. All credit report websites must be made equal, right?
The first thing I saw at FreeCreditReport.com was a panel with two options:
- Get a free credit report within 2 days without your credit score
- Pay $1 to sign up and get a full report instantly
Maybe my math is a little bit off, but paying $1 is not a “free credit report.” I also didn’t feel like waiting 2 days for the full thing.
I ditched FreeCreditReport.com and went to the recommended website, AnnualCreditReport.com.
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
The home page was pretty easy to navigate, mainly because of the giant red letters reading “Start here” next to a dropdown list of states.
After entering some vital info, I was prompted to select a company to deliver my report.
I thought my report was coming directly from AnnualCreditReport.com, but apparently not. I took a look at the company’s “about” page (probably should’ve done that first) and found that they just record your vital information and send it out to their three sponsor companies, who then retrieve the important stuff.
As long as it was free, I didn’t really care. I picked the company with the coolest logo and moved on.
ONE LAST TEST
I was all ready to get my report when 4 questions popped up for “verification” purposes. One read, “You may or may not have taken out an auto loan in May. How much was it?”
The last time I checked, I didn’t take out any kind of loan for my car. Although I knew this for sure, the question made me sweat a little bit. Did I have some kind of secret loan out there that I didn’t know about?
In the end, I just went with my common sense and hit “N/A” for the questions that sounded unfamiliar. I must’ve done something right, because the next thing I was looking at was my credit report.
It was 9 (!) pages long. At first I thought this was massive, but in hindsight, it seems about right. The report lists your entire payment history for each loan vertically, so that was what caused it to run longer than expected.
In terms of structure, the report is pretty easy to navigate. Every loan has its own section where you can see its status, balance, and who signed for it.
I was hoping that I’d see every loan that I had, but that wasn’t the case. Much the same way the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) will only show you government loans in your name,
your credit report only shows you non-federal loans, which is kind of a bummer. (Editor update 9/20/12: Upon further review, we’ve found that credit reports do typically show all your loan data. Bummer averted!)
I give AnnualCreditReport.com my stamp of approval. The site is easy to use, and it will actually give you a free credit report.
The free report does not include your credit score though, so if you’re looking for that you’ll have to pay. However, if you’re just using it to keep track of your student loans, it’s an excellent tool.
I suggest using NSLDS and AnnualCreditReport.com together to get the total scope of your loans—and then adding all that data to your SALT account. That way you won’t have to log on to a million different services to get all the info you need.