When it comes to getting a free credit report, there is a lot of confusion about where to go to get it, and what it is exactly that you are getting. Never fear, here's how to get your completely free credit report --and what you can expect.

If you have ever done an internet search for free credit report, you have discovered a ton of websites claiming to offer a "free" credit report. Most often, the "free" is contingent on some trial membership to a particular service. Consequently, there tends to be a lot of confusion for people trying to get their own credit report.

The fact is, the three national wide credit reporting companies - Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion- are required by law to provide a free report to you once every 12 months at your request. Based upon my own experience, here's how to make your request.

Go to annualcreditreport.com and you are on your way. You can make a request to each of the three agencies - or it is recommended that you might want to spread your requests out over the year, since you can only make  one request from each agency per year. Obviously, depending on your situation, it may be in your best interest to request all three at once.

The reason for requesting your free credit report is so that you can ensure that the information represented there is an accurate reflection of your credit activity. The negative items on your report will be so indicated, and will give you an idea of what you need to clean up in order to improve your credit score.

You can print your report and look at it at length and make sure it's all in order.

Speaking of credit score, just know going in that when you get your free credit report, you are not getting your credit score - only the report. This is a real bummer, since it would be beneficial to you as a consumer to know what your score is before you are sitting in front of the car dealer who is trying to arrange financing for  your purchase.

But, at least you now know not to expect to get your score. And, while you probably already know what the dings are in your credit history, getting your credit report will help you keep in touch with your all-important credit activity.