Law provides free credit scores, but not yet
Want one of those free credit reports you've
heard about? Well, you'll have to wait.
The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, signed into law
on Dec. 4, 2003, gives every American the right to a free credit
report every year from each of the three major credit bureaus --
Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
But most major provisions in the sprawling new law, which carves
national credit reporting standards into stone and beefs up consumer
protections against identity theft, won't take effect for quite
And that includes those much sought-after freebie credit reports.
Under the law, the Federal Trade Commission has six months to write
the regulations for distributing free credit reports and credit
bureaus have another six months to comply with the new rules.
If all goes well, by the end of 2004, you'll be able to get those
free credit reports.
Until then, unless you live in the handful of states that offer
free credit reports, you'll need to pay as much as $9 to take a
gander at your credit record.
For more on credit reports and a chart listing states that offer
free credit reports, check out this
article from Bankrate.com.
There's a lot more to the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions
Act than free credit
reports. Regulators have proposed an effective date of Dec.
1, 2004, for several sections of the new law. The actual effective
dates for these sections must be finalized by Feb. 4, 2004.
Here's a quick summary of other key provisions and consumer protections
in the new law.
Uniform credit standards
In 1996, Congress set uniform national standards on credit
reporting. These standards set clear rules on what credit agencies
could include in consumer credit reports. The new law made these
To help ward off identity theft, retailers must hide credit card
and debit card information on customer receipts. Only the last five
digits of a card number will be listed.
As of Jan. 1, 2005, all new cash registers and point-of-sale terminals
must print these safeguarded receipts. Merchants have until Dec.
4, 2006, to phase out any existing registers or terminals that print
full account numbers on receipts.