Posted on May 18, 2011 in Bargains, Freebies, Help & services, Money & finances
Can I get my credit report/credit score for free anywhere?
Before we answer this one, you need to know that there is an important difference between a credit report and a credit score.
The credit report is just like it sounds: A listing of your financial accounts (such as bank accounts and credit cards), where you live, property owned or rented, how much you owe, how well you pay your bills, whether or not you have been sued or arrested, and if you have filed for bankruptcy.
Your credit score takes the data from your credit report, and boils it down to a number. The FTC explains it as so:
Information about you and your credit experiences, like your bill-paying history, the number and type of accounts you have, whether you pay your bills by the date they’re due, collection actions, outstanding debt, and the age of your accounts, is collected from your credit report. Using a statistical program, creditors compare this information to the loan repayment history of consumers with similar profiles. For example, a credit scoring system awards points for each factor that helps predict who is most likely to repay a debt. A total number of points — a credit score — helps predict how creditworthy you are — how likely it is that you will repay a loan and make the payments when they’re due.
By federal law, Americans can get a free report from each of the three national credit reporting companies every year, or if you’re denied a loan based on your report.
Via AnnualCreditReport.com, you can get your credit report free once every 12 months from the major credit agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Do note that the AnnualCreditReport.com site is the only federally-authorized source for the free annual credit report. (Canadians — check out the Office of Consumer Affairs from Industry Canada to find out how to get your credit report.)
During some mortgage transactions, you can get your credit score information free of charge — contact whoever is making or arranging your loan to find out how.
Otherwise, getting your credit score can be a bit like navigating a maze. That’s because you ideally want your FICO score — this is the one that most lenders will be checking to make decisions about your credit. Via myfico.com, FICO will charge about $20 for one report (but will try to sell you various other services, so shop carefully).
The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) also gives you the right to get your own credit score from the national credit reporting companies. They are allowed to charge a “reasonable fee” — usually about $8 — for the score.
Do be aware that the “big 3” credit agencies will also try to upsell you on credit monitoring and other subscription services — and may make it hard to find the information you need for the single, low-cost report. Here are some direct links to help:
As a free option, check out Credit Karma — a free consumer service offering credit simulators, free credit scores (not FICO, but the TransRisk New Account Score and VantageScore from TransUnion), score comparisons and more to help you actively manage your credit and financial health.
Having good credit can certainly make your life easier — but you need to be organized and efficient with your bill paying chores to stay on track. Our friends at ChoreTell.com wrote about some free online budgeting services, and also remind you that whenever entering personal or other sensitive data on a computer, ensure that the connection is secure (look for the lock icon on the web page). Furthermore, if you’re connected to the internet through wifi or a router, confirm that it is password-protected and the signal is encrypted (see details here).
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