Experian has recently been running lots of ads for it’s "official free credit report". After seeing their ads a couple of times I started to get curious about the product myself. Is it actually free? Is it really a credit report?
Naturally, I'm skeptical about new credit products. As much as I'd love to share a great resource with Moneybiters, there are a lot of companies on the market offering similar products which are not actually free, nor are they real credit reports.
So I decided to be your test dummy. Here’s what I wanted to find out about Experian’s “official free credit report”:
Is it actually free?
Is it a real credit report?
Can I still get my Experian report for free through annualcreditreport.com?
Is the service actually free?
Yes. But there's a catch... or two.
In order to access the report you have to set up a membership account with Experian. This means, among other things, providing your email address. I chose to opt out of their additional email promotions and updates - nonetheless, I received 3 emails from them within 3 days of setting up my account. If unsubscribing wasn’t so easy I’d be upset.
Side Question: Are they selling me something?
Does a one-legged duck swim in circles? Of course this major credit bureau is selling us something. In this case it's both credit cards and credit scores. Experian’s short application process includes “suggested” credit cards, a.k.a. regular credit card advertisements.
Keep in mind that when any of these for-profit companies (including the credit bureaus, Credit Karma, and FICO) "suggest" credit products for you, they're not actually better products. They're still just regular ads.
In other words, don’t apply for a credit card while pulling your report from Experian. If you’re shopping for a credit card, consider these questions first.
When it comes to the credit scores Experian is selling, know that you should never pay to see what your scores are. It’s better to focus on understanding what score range you’re in, rather than pinpointing a specific number, since the number fluctuates often. FICO’s free score estimator is a great tool to help you determine what range you're in.
Is this a REAL credit report?
This question might seem odd but it’s very important! Many sites offering your credit information for free are actually offering you a credit summary, not a full report. In other words, you don’t get all of the information that’s in your credit reports. No bueno!
In the case of this particular Experian product, I believe it is indeed a full credit report. The report I pulled had very little information on it, but that’s likely because *humble brag alert* I avoid debt like the plague.
I wish I could say definitively that this product is a full report but, naturally, it’s hard to know what’s not there. I tried to pull another copy for comparison but it didn’t go so well. Read on for the juicy details...
Can I still get my Experian report for free from annualcreditreport.com?
If you remember an article I published a few weeks ago, I shared that you can get all three of your credit reports for free once a year. That’s three total reports - one from Experian, from Equifax, and from TransUnion - every 12 months. Naturally, when I saw Experian's new ads, I assumed that this product now represented a fourth, free, credit report.
After pulling the Experian report, I thought I'd double-check (I also wanted to compare the two Experian reports). So I went to annualcreditreport.com (ACR) to see if I could use my free, annual pull, to get my Experian report there too. Instead I was rerouted to Experian’s website and was advised to call their help line.
After speaking with two Experian agents who gave me conflicting information, I was told definitively, that I couldn't get a free copy from both sources. I was also advised that this important detail is not published anywhere on Experian’s website. So much for happy endings!
Unfortunately, at the end of all of this, I discovered that the total number of free reports you get each year is still just three. In other words, Experian is advertising a product that was already being given away for free.
Look, no strings!
Grade For This Product: D
This “official free credit report” is all smoke and mirrors. Experian is essentially just taking the credit for a product that already exists. Instead of directing you to ACR, they want you to set up a membership on their website so they can send send you tons of emails and try to sell you a bunch of lame stuff.
Yes, it’s easy to pull a credit report from Experian’s website, and it is indeed free of charge, but ACR is still the best source - no strings attached!
Is there a finance or credit product you'd like me to review?
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