With all of the bank research I’ve done the past few weeks, I’ve thought a lot about my credit score and how it effects this whole process. It’s kind of silly how a number defines whether or not you can open an account, interest rates and all sorts of other things related to your financial life. Some jobs even require a credit check before you are hired.
Because this number is so important, everyone should regularly check in on their credit report and score. Unfortunately, there are a lot of companies that build their business model around giving you this information, with a convenient monthly charge.
Luckily there are a few, totally, actually free ways to check both your credit report and your credit score.
If you live in the US (and this whole post is targeted towards people here in the states) then the Fair Credit Reporting Act guarantees you access to your credit report for free. There’s a lot of companies who try to pretend like they’ll provide your credit report for free, but they have hidden fees. The only place that provides the reports free is annualcreditreport.com.
At annualcreditreport.com you can request a free report from the big three: Transunion, Experian and Equifax. They’ll each give you one free report a year, which actually translates into three free reports a year. Some people use all three at once, so they can compare the agencies. Others spread them out throughout the year. Either way, you should check your report regularly to make sure all information is correct and you have not been a victim of fraud or identity theft.
The process is pretty simple, you’ll have to fill out a lot of personal info to verify that you are the person you say you are. Then you’ll receive a copy of your credit report to print or save. The only thing you won’t receive for free is your credit score. They’ll offer to provide it for a charge, but don’t do it! There’s a way to get that information for free.
I recently discovered the website Credit Karma. If you sign up for an account with them, they will provide you will your credit score any time you log into your account. It’s pretty nifty. They also have a credit simulator that estimates what effect certain actions will have on your credit score. The site will also summarize your accounts with outstanding balances (mortgage, credit card, student loans, etc.) and gives notifications on changes (increase or decrease in balance, change in credit score, etc).
It’s a great tool that offers way more than I have time to mention. The one thing you have to watch out for is they will make suggestions on credit cards, loans and other banking products to apply for. This is how they make their money, so please do outside research before you sign up for their “recommended” products.
With both of these sites, you have plenty of free resources to keep track of your credit report.
Image Credit: Kikashi