Many websites advertise that they allow you to check your credit report and/or credit score for free. But there's a catch: many of these "free" reports and scores actually cost money. Let's take a look at a few of these websites to see what they really charge.

TUTORIAL: Credit Cards

Credit Reports vs. Credit Scores
Before you check anything, know the difference between a credit report and a credit score. A credit report shows all of the credit accounts in your name, how long you've had them, how much you owe and whether you pay on time. A credit score is a three-digit number between 300 and 850 that lenders use to assess the risk of lending to you. The higher the number, the better your score. (For related reading, see Consumer Credit Report: What's On It.)

"Free" Credit Report And Credit Score Websites Explored
What follows is not an exhaustive list of sites advertising free credit reports or free credit scores, but it will give you an idea of what to look out for. is probably the most heavily advertised site. You've heard the jingles on TV about working as a pirate in a restaurant and living in your parents' basement. The site advertises two different offers. One is "Get Your Instant Credit Report & Score for $1." The top of the webpage says, "When you order your $1 Credit Report and Score here, you will begin your 7-day trial membership in If you don't cancel your membership within the 7-day trial period, you will be billed $14.95 for each month that you continue your membership. You may cancel your trial membership anytime within the trial period without charge."

There are no surprises here, though one might argue that the name of the website is a bit misleading.

The second offer is "Free Credit Report Delivered in 2 Days." The site states that no credit score is included in this offer and that no membership is required. It's difficult to tell what you're really signing up for before you are asked provide your Social Security number, though.

The terms and conditions state that you are required to provide a credit card number to receive your free report, and you will be asked if you want to purchase your score. If you do order your score, you will be enrolled in a trial of Credit Monitoring. Presumably, as with the previous offer, you will be billed $14.95 per month if you don't cancel. Furthermore, why would you want to wait two days for a credit report that other sites offer instant access to? (For related reading, see The Importance Of Your Credit Rating.) makes it quite clear that you're signing up for a free trial of a credit monitoring service to get your free credit score. The homepage says "Start Your Trial Here," "Get Your FREE Trial & FREE Credit Score" and "When you order your free credit score here, you will begin your 7-day trial membership in If you don't cancel your membership within the 7-day trial period, you will be billed $14.95 for each month that you continue your membership. You may cancel your trial membership anytime within the trial period without charge." You have to provide your credit card information to get the free trial. The website's name might be somewhat misleading, but the site itself is not. advertises "Fast and Secure Free Credit Scores" in large print, but the small print underneath says, "with your 7-day ScoreSense trial." The page asks for your first and last name, zip code and email address. The following page asks for your address, phone number and reason for checking your credit score - no explanation is given yet of the product you're signing up for. Not until you submit this information and arrive at page three, do you learn what you're getting, assuming you're paying attention. The page asks for your credit card information and has a large "View Scores" button that submits your order. The information about what you're ordering is all in small print.

So what are you ordering? A "free" 7-day trial for which you will immediately be charged a $1 "refundable" processing fee. You will receive your credit score from each of the three credit bureaus and be enrolled in a credit monitoring service that costs $29.95 per month. You will be charged this fee "on a monthly basis unless and until you call 1-800-972-7204 to cancel your membership."

The terms and conditions also state, "If for some reason you do not have access to a phone, you may terminate by writing us at 4447 North Central Expressway, Suite 110 PMB 406, Dallas, TX 75205, and requesting termination. You may not cancel via email to us. We do not provide prorated refunds."

It seems likely that if you cancel by mail, the cancellation will not occur until after your trial period has ended. The company also reserves the right to increase the price of your subscription and start charging you the new price.
At the time of writing, credit bureau TransUnion's home page features a large advertisement for a "FREE Credit Score." Click on the link and you'll end up on a page for a seven-day free trial to a credit monitoring service from TrueCredit that costs $14.95 per month once the trial expires. You have to provide your credit card number to get the trial, and you will automatically be billed for the service when the trial period expires unless you cancel in time. The membership renews "indefinitely without action by the member," according to the TrueCredit terms and conditions.

TUTORIAL: Credit Cards: Pros And Cons

The Bottom Line
Before you order a credit report or credit score, make sure you understand what you're really ordering. Many sites advertise free credit reports or scores, but if you have to provide your credit card information, you're likely to get charged for something. (For additional reading, see Check Your Credit Report.)

Related Articles
  1. Credit & Loans

    Can Corporate Credit Cards Affect Your Credit?

    Corporate cards have a hidden downside. If the company fails to pay its bills, you could be liable for the amount and end up with a damaged credit rating.
  2. Credit & Loans

    Millennials Guide: Picking the Best Rewards Cards

    There are perks a-plenty on offer, but you have to find the right plastic for your lifestyle.
  3. Credit & Loans

    Your Credit Score: More Important Than You Know

    Credit scores affect key aspects of your personal and professional life. Knowing your score and managing your credit input can make a big difference.
  4. Credit & Loans

    Joint Credit Cards: The Pros and Cons

    A joint credit card may sound like an easy way to split the bills, but make sure you know what you’re getting into first.
  5. Credit & Loans

    Fixing Your Credit Score: A Do It Yourself Guide

    Following these five steps can go a long way toward repairing a low score.
  6. Credit & Loans

    Co-signing a Loan? Make Sure You Know The Risks

    Contractually, co-signers are just as responsible for the loan as the person actually borrowing the money. Be careful not to put yourself at risk.
  7. Investing Basics

    Should You Increase Your Credit Card Limit?

    What if you took out a new credit card and the issuing company started you off with a fairly low credit limit that hasn't been raised after the first year. Should you ask for an increase? The ...
  8. Credit & Loans

    How To Boost Your Credit Score To Save Thousands

    One of the first steps you should follow before buying a home is to boost your credit score. And how do you do that? Here, we tell you how.
  9. Credit & Loans

    5 Ways to Up Your Chance of Getting a Mortgage

    Tips and ways to improve your chances of getting a mortgage.
  10. Home & Auto

    Comparing Reverse Mortgages vs. Forward Mortgages

    Which one a homeowner chooses depends on where you are at this point in your life, personally and financially.
  1. Credit Rating

    An assessment of the credit worthiness of a borrower in general ...
  2. Jamming

    A scam perpetrated by bogus credit repair firms that involves ...
  3. Furnisher

    A company that provides information about a consumer, including ...
  4. Semi-Secured Credit Card

    A type of credit card offered to individuals who carry a higher ...
  5. Mixed File

    A credit bureau record that contains more than one consumer’s ...
  6. Re-Aging Debt

    Restarting the clock on a debt’s statute of limitations.
  1. Why would someone change their Social Security number?

    In general, the Social Security Administration, or SSA, does not encourage citizens to change their Social Security numbers, ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. What types of liens are seen as good and which are bad for my credit?

    Creditors that allow purchases to be made through financing often require property to be pledged against a credit account; ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. What are the typical requirements to qualify for closed end credit?

    Typical requirements for a consumer to qualify for closed-end credit include satisfactory income level and credit history, ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What is the best way to start to rebuild your credit after a bankruptcy?

    Bankruptcies can be devastating to your credit score. Even worse, a bankruptcy will be listed on your credit report for between ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. What are the differences between delinquency and default?

    Delinquency and default are loan terms that describe failure to make a required payment. A loan in delinquency occurs the ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What are the differences between Chapter 11 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy?

    There are a number of differences between Chapter 11 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy, including eligibility, cost and amount of ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center

You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!