Experian is required by federal law to provide you with your free credit report once a year. The problem is, how to ask for it without paying anything is not so easy to find. (Go to annualcreditreport.com if you haven't already been ripped off by Experian.)
On experian.com, there is a link which does not actually look like a link in the very last line of the very last column under the "Additional Services & Products" tab in the bottom half of the page, which you must scroll down to in order to see. The link says, "FACT Act Obtain Your Free Annual Credit Report." It is not underlined, bolded, or in a link-like color, but there is a tiny little ">" symbol before the line, rather like a bullet, giving no clue that it's really a clickable link.
I only found that link too late, after the top half of the page the only part I could see without scrolling duped me into paying $1 without realizing that I would also be paying another $17.95 a week later. I knew I was supposed to be able to get a free report, but I figured paying $1 to get it immediately rather than waiting for U.S. mail service or spending more time trying to figure out how to find the free version wasn't too bad a deal, so I went for it.
Shame on me for not scrolling down to read below the big orange "Get Your Credit Report and Score" button before I clicked it. There was nothing up to that button that suggested I needed to scroll down. If there was a catch mentioned in the fine print below, they should have at the very least had a visible asterisk in the line that says, "FIND OUT NOW FOR $1" but no, nothing there. An asterisk might have been an acceptable cue that I should go find the matching footnote, but it's not actually a footnote, because they don't want you to look at it at all. Instead, they deliberately put the following in its own text box (undoubtedly so that you'll be less likely to realize it relates directly to the box above it) using a light gray-blue font that stands out less than the text in other boxes around it, so that your eye will be likely to skip it completely:
When you order your $1 Credit Report & Score, you will begin your 7-day trial membership in Experian Credit TrackerSM. If you don't cancel your membership within the 7-day trial period*, you will be billed $17.95 for each month that you continue your membership. You may cancel your
trial membership anytime within the trial period without charge."
Note the asterisk in the paragraph above. Then look for the matching footnote near the bottom of the page, which is in a very small and very light gray font:
"* The credit monitoring benefit may only be available for 5 days during your trial period since enrollment can take up to 48 hours. You may cancel your trial membership any time during your first 7 days without charge."
Now the question I don't know the answer to is this: Did I receive my confirmation email the night I signed up, or did it come 2 days later, making me start counting 2 days late?? In any case, they don't mention that you will have to make a phone call to cancel that membership; you won't be
able to do it from your account.
If you missed all that (as they obviously want you to) and make it to the page that comes up after clicking the aforementioned, large "Get Your Credit Report and Score" button above it, you will next see a page where you enter your name, address, email and select an answer to the question, "What is the main reason you are checking your credit?" You may notice that the address window now shows the URL https://experian.experiandirect.com/credit/Order1.aspx (followed by a bunch of codes that are probably irrelevant to my complaints here). After that is a big orange button that says, "SUBMIT AND CONTINUE." Depending on your screen resolution, the "Terms and
Conditions" link below may not be visible without scrolling. I just went there again, and I definitely have to scroll down to see it, which is why I did not. (And I just reset my zoom for the default size to verify that many others would also not see it without scrolling. Often I have my text size larger, in which case I would have to scroll further.)
The page after that asks for your SSN and date of birth, then username and password under the line, "Login Information Required to view your credit report and score"
Over on the right it clearly says:
"Credit Report and Score
"Limited time offer!
"Order Total: $1.00"
And under that, in smaller, very light gray print, it says:
"Includes 7-day trial membership in Experian Credit Tracker. You may cancel your trial membership at any time within 7 days without charge."
People might expect that this means they can get their $1 back if they don't like their trial membership. NOT! Instead, after 7 days, you will be charged an additional $17.95 without any
warning that it's about to happen, save the one-and-only confirmation email you will have already gotten in the beginning, which will mention the fee way down at the bottom where you probably won't see it. (Who has time to read the entirety of all their emails anymore?)
letters. Reading specialists know this; I'll bet whoever designed Experian's website knows this
The one sentence they want you to notice about payments is in bold: "You may cancel your trial membership at any time within 7 days without charge." The interesting stuff, so easy to have missed everywhere else, is not in bold, and the casual (or hurried, as I was) reader may not realize this is actually something they didn't already see: "If you decide not to cancel, your membership will
continue and you will be billed for just $17.95/month for each month that you continue your membership. You may cancel your membership and stop the monthly billing by contacting us at any time; however, you will not be eligible for a pro-rated refund of your current month's paid membership fee. "
Say what? Did they mention that you are billed $17.95 at the start of your membership month, and
that that begins at the start of the eighth day? OK, I'll admit many other online businesses bill this way too, but everybody else is more likely to give you a refund when you call on the first day of the new billing month and ask to cancel ASAP, so I admit I'm angry. Did they mention that you would receive no courtesy email telling you your free 7-day trial is about up just before they bill you? No,
you have to figure this out for yourself. Maybe they warn you in their "Terms and Conditions" link that you agree to when you "Click 'Submit Secure Order' to agree to the Terms and Conditions" but who ever reads those anymore? (I glanced at it. Who wants to read all that garbage?)
I am sure they are following the letter of the law on the final page, from which you submit your order, but they sure don't follow the spirit of the law, nor of fair and honorable business practices. If they did not intend to deceive, they would not have their web pages organized as they do, and they would have chosen different font sizes and colors. It is clear that they are depending on
deception to get business.
And is their $17.95/month membership worth it for anyone? I cannot judge what you get for that price, as I canceled as soon as I was aware that I had been charged. As others have experienced, they refused to give me any refund on the day I had been charged.
However, reading up on what Consumer Reports and others say, I have reason to believe there are better strategies for keeping track of your credit ratings.
By the way, I am about to send them a second email emphasizing that I want my membership canceled NOW, not at the end of my billing month, so that when the next class action suit comes up, I can emphasize that I did not want nor use a full month of this service. I only logged in today so that I could find out how to cancel.
Please don't get suckered by Experian. Go to annualcreditreport.com instead and really get your credit reports for free.