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July 12th 2023

How to check your credit history in the U.S.

Learn how to check your credit history in the U.S. through several credit monitoring tools—many of which are free to use.

Nova Credit is a cross-border credit bureau that allows newcomers to apply for U.S. credit cards, phone plans, and loans using their foreign credit history.

Nova Credit receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but this content is not provided by them. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the authors alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

Louis DeNicola
Personal Finance Writer

You may want a way to check on your progress as you build credit in the U.S. Fortunately, you can do this without spending any money. 

Federal law requires the credit bureaus to regularly give you a free copy of your credit report. Additionally, you can look into credit monitoring programs that automatically notify you about important changes in your credit history.

Let’s go over your options for how to check your credit history in the U.S.

Check all three of your credit reports for free

Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion are the three major credit bureaus in the U.S. They each collect information about your borrowing behavior and create credit reports that organizations use to evaluate your creditworthiness. Your credit scores are also based on these credit reports.

Your credit reports from the bureaus may be different, since some lenders only report to certain bureaus. This is normal, but makes it important to review and monitor all three of your credit reports. 

You can request free copies of your credit report from each of the bureaus online at AnnualCreditReport.com. At a minimum, you’ll be able to do this once every 12 months for each bureau. Currently, a temporary policy changes after the pandemic let you request a free copy from each bureau weekly through 2023. 

Look into credit monitoring programs

Although you could regularly check your credit reports for changes, an easier approach may be to use a credit monitoring program. Monitoring programs can automatically detect and send you alerts when there’s a significant change, such as a new hard inquiry, a new credit account, or an increase in your credit utilization ratio. 

Knowing about these changes as they happen can help you more proactively manage your credit. It can also notify you of an unexpected new inquiry or account, which could indicate someone is fraudulently using your information to apply for credit.

There are free ways to monitor all three of your credit reports, but you’ll need to sign up for at least two different programs.

  • Experian offers free credit monitoring for your Experian credit report. The report gets updated every 30 days, but the monitoring includes immediate notifications for important changes. You also receive a free FICO Score and score tracking with your account. 

  • Credit Karma offers free credit monitoring for your TransUnion and Equifax credit reports. Your TransUnion reports updates daily, and your Equifax report updates at least weekly. You’ll also receive a free VantageScore 3.0 credit score to go with each of your reports. 

These are free services that make money by suggesting various financial services and products to members, such as loans and credit cards. 

Alternatively, you can find paid credit monitoring programs that will monitor all three of your reports. The paid programs also often include additional features, such as several types of credit scores and identity theft insurance.

Checking your credit history if you have an ITIN

The credit monitoring programs and AnnualCreditReport.com require a Social Security number (SSN) to sign up or request your report online. 

However, you may have a credit history in the U.S. even if you don’t have an SSN. For instance, you can open a credit card with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) and the credit card will help you to establish and build credit.

If you want to check your credit history without an SSN, you may need to physically mail a credit report request form to the bureaus with your ITIN in place of an SSN. You can find the instructions for Experian and TransUnion online. Equifax might let you check your report online. If not, the Equifax site links to the credit report request from AnnualCreditReport.com—you could try printing and mailing that form to request your Equifax report. 

Start building your credit in the U.S. with your foreign credit history

It takes time to build a credit history in the U.S.—often several months or even years of responsibly managing a credit product like a credit card. However, it is often difficult to get approved for your first credit products without an existing credit history. This vicious cycle often requires a secured credit card to slowly begin building a credit.

Good news: if you have recently moved to the U.S., Nova Credit may be able to help you use your foreign credit history to apply for unsecured credit cards and kickstart this credit-building process.

If you are approved for this credit card and manage it responsibly, you will start to quickly establish and build a U.S. credit history. Even better, you will enjoy all of the perks that come with premium credit cards such as cash back, travel rewards, no security deposit, and more.

Currently, Nova Credit serves individuals coming from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Dominican Republic, India, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, the Philippines, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, and the U.K.

Did you know?

You can use your foreign credit history to apply for a U.S. credit card

Credit history used to stop at the border—until now. Your existing foreign credit history could help you get credit in the United States.

More from Nova Credit:

Credit Cards for No Credit

Credit Cards Without SSN

Credit Cards to Build Credit

How to Build Credit

How to use your foreign credit history to get credit in the U.S

Will multiple credit cards help you build credit faster?

Does becoming an authorized user help you build credit faster?

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