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You have plenty of good reasons to watch your credit closely. Credit card issuers, landlords, insurance companies and even some employers will review your credit record to determine whether you're a responsible person.

A credit report shows your credit history and the status of the accounts you have open. A credit score boils all of the information down into a three-digit score. The higher your score, the more likely that you'd pay back a loan.

Before you try borrowing money, applying for a job or renting an apartment, you'll want to get your hands on your credit reports and scores to see what the decision-makers will see. Here's how to do that — for free.

CreditWise® from Capital One® can help you protect your credit and quickly detect fraud for FREE.

Easiest way to get free credit reports

Yes, we did say credit reports and credit scores. You have three credit reports: one from each of the major credit reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. You also have multiple credit scores.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, consumers are entitled to free copies of each of their credit reports every 12 months. To request your reports, just go to AnnualCreditReport.com.

The reports can be transmitted electronically in an instant, or you can have hard copies delivered to you within 15 days of your request.

Other times you can get a free credit report

Under the law, you also can get a credit report for free in the following instances:

  • When an adverse decision is made against you because of information in your credit report. Examples include being turned down for a credit card or being rejected for an apartment lease.
  • If you are the victim of identity theft and have asked that a fraud alert be placed on your credit files.
  • If your files contain inaccurate information due to fraud.
  • If you're on public assistance.
  • If you're unemployed but expect to apply for work within 60 days.

Getting a free credit score is trickier

The Fair Credit Reporting Act does not provide for a free credit score. When you request a free credit report through AnnualCreditReport.com, you will be offered an accompanying score for a fee, currently $8.

But you have other options for obtaining your credit score, and some of them are free. For example, most major credit cards give cardholders free access to credit scores:

CreditWise® is the first app that sends you alerts from Experian® and TransUnion®, tracks your social security number, and scans the dark web all in one place, for free – whether you’re a customer or not. These alerts can be sent via email or directly to your mobile phone.

Free credit scores also are available through several companies that offer credit monitoring, including Credit Karma and Quizzle.

Knowing your credit score and the contents of your credit reports is important in understanding your financial options.

Use CreditWise® from Capital One® to protect the credit you’ve worked to establish.