This is the eighth and final part of my Credit Series, where I explain the most important aspects of credit, credit reports, and credit scores. Each installment focuses on one factor influencing credit, tools to monitor and improve credit, or an explanation of a specific credit concept.
Of course you’ve seen those catchy commercials on TV for a site that says will give you what you want for free, but unlike that site, these 4 tools will help you get free reports (and scores) without using your credit card. Use these tools to find abnormal activity, such as accounts or credit cards you didn’t open. And remember, asking for your own credit information won’t negatively affect your credit score, so I encourage you to take advantage of these free tools.
Annual Credit Report
Believe it or not, by law, you are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion) every year, and AnnualCreditReport provides just that. I suggest ordering a different report from this site every 4 months so you can keep track more frequently. These are the actual reports from the 3 credit bureaus, and since it’s absolutely free, why not take advantage of what is legally yours?
While I’ve heard of it, it wasn’t until Evolution of Wealth suggested it that I went to Quizzle to see what all the commotion was about. It turns out that it’s a great tool that gives you a detailed, easy to read credit report courtesy of Experian as well as a credit score based on their new credit score model that tracks closely with leading industry sources. My score from here is comparable to what I found when I got my score when ordering a free trial at myFICO.com (I cancelled before the free trial ended, but it was a real hassle).
Credit.com gives you a credit report card as well as your estimated credit score ranges for several reporting companies. They grade you on all five factors used to determine your credit score: payment history, debt usage, credit age, account mix, and inquiries. It also provides a data snapshot providing Transunion data of the number of open and closed accounts as well as total balances, minimum payments, and total credit limits. The best part of Credit.com’s tool, however, is the credit score details section, where it breaks down each portion of your credit score and provides explanations and suggestions about how to improve your credit and earn the maximum number of points for each category.
CreditKarma does not provide a credit report, but does calculate your score as well as grade you based on payment history, credit age, account mix, and inquiries. It is a helpful tool that also compares you to other Credit Karma users, but the credit score I found through them was considerably lower compared to the my FICO score and Quizzle. While all the features I have listed are free, some of these sites also offer additional features at a cost. If you are not interested in purchasing additional features, simply keep your credit card in your pocket. These tools can be very helpful and will enable you to keep track of your credit information and find inaccurate information. Right now, Quizzle is my favorite. Which do you like best?
Also, I’d like to wish my father (great photography work, whoever took that picture) a Happy Birthday, he’s taught me just about everything I know about money and we’ve had some pretty interesting discussions over the past few months, even if he hasn’t realized why I bring up finance. Unfortunately, he found my blog (again), he has a habit of doing that. Enjoy.