Unless you've been disconnected from broadcast TV of any kind, you've probably seen and heard the FreeCreditReport.com commercials. While they humorously portray the very real difficuties you can face from having a bad credit report and a low credit score, they are not driving you to the truly free annualcreditreport.com site that was created to comply with the FTC's Fair Credit Reporting Act. On the contrary, FreeCreditReport.com is owned by Experian, one of the three consumer credit reporting companies, and is designed to get you to sign up for paid credit report monitoring service, and a fee-based credit score, that is similar to, but not your FICO score.
AnnualCreditReport.com is the best way to get a free copy of your credit reports. If you want your FICO socre for free, you'll have to go to myfico.com, sign up for their Score Watch service, and then cancel it before the 10-day free trial expires. After that, you'll be billed $14.95 each month for the service.
There are a couple other options to get free credit scores without signing up for a service. Note that these are not your true FICO score, but a close approximation. I like CreditSesame.com. While it doesn't offer a FICO score (it's based on Experian's credit score), it is truly free – you don't need to join a trial service and cancel. CreditKarma.com and Quizzle.com also offer truly free scores — based on a business model of engaging your interest, and then hoping to sell you.
Bottom Line: Use AnnualCreditReport.com at least once every 12 months. (If you request only one of the three comsumer credit company reports at a time, you can space them out throughout the year.) Use CreditSesame.com to have a monthly credit score emailed to you, and use myfico.com to get your actual FICO score before financing or refinancing a home, when it really matters.