With the passage of the Fair Credit Reporting Act legislation it became a lot easier and friendlier on the wallet for average people to get a better handle on their credit situation. The law attempted to regulate a consumer credit industry that was hard for people to navigate, and make it more accessible – and easier – for people to figure out if there were any black marks on their record. By giving people access to their consumer credit file at least once a year, it was hoped that people could make more informed decisions, and be better able to improve their credit when problems were found. After all, your credit history is more important than ever!
Over the past couple of years it has become even easier for consumers to keep tabs on their credit situation with the launch of companies that will now give you your actual credit agency credit scores (or reports) for free as a tie-in to buy other products. Since you're not obligated to buy anything, however, it can end up being free to get your credit scores or reports. The ways mentioned below to get your credit score are all ways that I've personally used to stay on top of my own credit – and I highly recommend them.
Get Your Free Annual Credit Reports
First, let's start off with the three credit agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, and how to get a free credit report from each. It's simple. The government has a site at AnnualCreditReport.com that will allow you to get 1 free credit report from each of the 3 agencies every year. It should be noted that this is your credit report, not your credit score – which is not included for free. You normally would have to pay an extra fee to get that.
To maximize the impact that I'm getting from checking my reports I like to stagger checking my credit reports throughout the year. I check one agency every 4 months or so. That way I'm checking my reports more often, and I'm more likely to catch something if there is a problem.
Free Equifax, Experian And TransUnion Credit Scores
Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian all have their own version of a credit score that they put out, and it's a good idea to stay on top of these. Normally you would have to pay to get each one of these, but here’s how to get them for free.
NOTE: There is a myth out there that checking your credit score or report can actually hurt your credit score. That's not true as when you check your own credit it is considered a “soft inquiry”, which has no affect. When a lender checks it is a “hard inquiry”, which does affect your credit.
Equifax Credit Score
Equifax has a 30-day free credit monitoring trial offer. If you sign up for this offer you'll have access your Equifax credit score along with a variety of other perks. Just make sure to cancel the trial before it starts billing or it won't be free.
TransUnion Credit Score
The free credit monitoring service at Credit Karma will give you your TransUnion credit score for free, without giving them a credit card or other payment. I’ve been using Credit Karma for a few years now, and like the ability to get my score for free at any time. So how do they pull your credit file? You'll need to provide a driver's license number and a social security number in order to get your credit score. The service makes money by making product recommendations once you pull your score.
Experian Credit Score
There are a couple of places that you can go to get your Experian credit score for no charge. The first one is my favorite, and conjures up the idea of Alibaba and the forty thieves. It's called Credit Sesame. Credit Sesame is a credit and debt monitoring site that will take a look at your current financial situation, and then try and find better options for any consumer loans you might have. Signing up is easy and free of charge. You'll just need to provide some basic personal details as well as a social security number, and then you'll have access to a monthly credit score pull. I've been using them for a month or so now, and so far I'm loving it!
Another place that will give you your Experian credit score for free is the financial site called Quizzle.com, brought to you by Quicken Loans. This site also asks for some basic personal information and a social security number, and you'll then be provided with your Experian credit score. The site, like the others, is offering the free credit score as a lead-in to try and get you to use their financial products – either home loans via Quicken Loans, or other financial products. One thing I really like about Quizzle as well is that not only do they provide you with a free credit score, but they give you your Experian credit report for free as well! A 2-in-1 free credit score and report deal!
FICO Credit Score
While you can get your TransUnion and Experian credit scores for free without a credit card or signing up for a free trial, the one actually used by many banks, the FICO score, is a bit harder to find free of cost. The only real option at this time that I can find is if you sign up for one of the credit monitoring sites on a free trial. Here's one option:
- Equifax 3 in 1 Credit Monitoring Trial (Includes free FICO score)
Again, just remember to cancel before the trial is up, otherwise you'll have to pay.
Get Your Credit Score When Taking Out A Loan
Another way to get a free credit score is to ask for it whenever you sign up for any kind of consumer credit. Whenever you get a loan, anything from an auto loan to a home loan, you may have the right to see the credit score the company used in making their lending decision. Depending on where you're getting the loan, and what agencies they use, you could be getting one two or all three agency scores, or just a FICO score. In any event, it doesn't hurt to ask to see this information, and if necessary, dispute any inaccuracies you find.
Do you currently check your credit scores and reports on a regular basis? Have you ever identified issues or identity theft? Do you have other services you use to find your credit information for free? Tell us about it in the comments!
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