The Big Guy and I are young. Like, real young. Ok, so I’m 23 and he’s 24. Because of our youth, credit scores are starting to get in the way of our dreams (rental property, credit cards with awesome rewards for travel hacking and other general awesomeness)! Which is stupid, because no credit (no loans, credit cards, or past due payments) should be considered good credit.
But, the reality is that that is not that case, and credit scores are not fair. So, The Big Guy and I have been tracking our credit scores endlessly! How do we do it? I’ve rounded up 5 free ways to check your credit for free. Some of them are awesome, one is not, but I’ve laid it all out for you to decide!
Credit Sesame uses the Experian National Equivalency Score to help you monitor your credit profile. This score and credit report reflects only a partial of the full profile Experian has, but even so is a good indicator of your true Experian score. Signup is quick and easy, with no credit card required. With the free account you receive:
- Free Monthly Credit Score from Experian
- Free Credit Monitoring from 1 credit bureau
- Free Credit and Loan Analysis
- Free Identity Theft Insurance and ID Restoration Help up to $50K
In addition to all of these services, Credit Sesame provides personalized savings advice, credit card recommendations based on your financial health, mortgage recommendations, as well as CD and Savings account recommendations to help you save money!
How They Make Money: Credit Sesame offers paid services as well as the free ones, which is obviously how they make part of their money. The rest comes from recommendations that they give you, the user. Whenever you click through a link to a bank, CD, or credit card and sign up, Credit Sesame makes a commission, just like in this blog :-).
The Bottom Line: I use it, and I believe it is helpful. I also find the credit monitoring useful, and use it frequently.
Credit Karma uses TransUnion’s VantageScore V3 score as well as score specific to car insurance, auto insurance, and more. Sign up through Credit Karma is also free and easy. With the free account you receive:
- Your Absolutely Free Credit Score – updated in real time
- Credit Score Simulator
- Credit Report Card
Credit Karma provides your TransUnion Credit, Auto Insurance and Home Insurance scores, all for free. They then combine all three for your VantageScore, which gives you a good idea of the big picture of your credit. The credit report card is a really cool feature that shows what portions of your credit are dragging your score down, as well as which ones are helping to bring it up, by assigning each factor a grade of A – F. Lastly, the credit score simulator is one of the coolest tools out there. You can make theoretical changes to your credit utilization, payment promptness, and other credit score factors and find out how much it will impact your credit!
How They Make Money: Recommended financial service advertisements are how Credit Karma makes the bulk of their money. They do not offer paid services, but instead tailor credit card, bank, and loan offers to you. This is similar to Mint.com in that the ads are definitely there, but they are not obtrusive.
The Bottom Line: Credit Karma is arguably the best free credit score service out there. Their credit score is one of the most accurate and I find their Credit Score Simulator to be invaluable.
Wise Piggy is also free, and provides your VantageScore, similar to Credit Karma. With you free account you receive:
- Your Free Credit Score
- Debt Calculator
- Tips to Improve Your Credit Score
The free credit score is, again, your VantageScore, which is not the score a financial institution would use when determining credit. And, WisePiggy’s tools are fairly limited, especially when compared with Credit Karma. Their Debt Calculator tools allows you to predict savings if you were to switch credit cards, and it gives you tips to improve your credit score. However, I will not be signing up for WisePiggy, seeing as the VantageScore is not being used by banks, and the lack of tools when compared with Credit Karma.
How They Make Money: WisePiggy offers tailored financial solutions such as credit cards, loans, and checking and savings accounts.
The Bottom Line: I would skip WisePiggy, especially if you can (or will) sign up for Credit Karma. Credit Karma offers more information and more helpful tools.
Quizzle (Get your truly free credit report) is another company that claims to offer a free credit score, but you need to be aware of a few things before signing up. They claim to offer:
- Free Credit Score
- Your Experian Credit Report
- Access to Your CE Score
The first thing you must be aware of is that the free credit score advertised is not a true FICO score. Instead, it is Quizzle’s own method of scoring that is to be used for educational purposes only. However, Quizzle does give you access to your free Experian Credit Report (not score). This is awesome because you can see every detail of your credit and check for errors, but they dont’ provide you with your actual score. The CE score was created by CE analytics, and should not be confused with your FICO score. It is on a 350 to 850 scale, but I haven’t heard of it being used in the financial industry at all yet. Signup is truly free, and they haven’t asked me for a credit card yet.
How they make money: Quizzle offers tailored advertisements for financial services.
The Bottom Line: While the CE Score is particularly helpful, having year-round access to your Experian Credit Report certainly makes this worth signing up for.
Annual Credit Report.com
Annual Credit Report.com is your one-stop shop for your once per year full credit reports from Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. Federal law requires that you have access to these reports once every 12 months – but the three bureaus are not required to give access to them any more frequently. This service is truly free, but there are some drawbacks. The first is that Annual Credit Report.com only provides your credit report – not your credit score. While reviewing my credit report annually for errors is very helpful, I find that a credit score gives me more information with regard to what a bank would be looking at if I applied for credit. Also, Annual Credit Report only provides you access to each report once every 12 months. With other services, you’re credit is updated either in real time or every month – both of which are more frequently than once a year. However, not every other service provides your FULL credit report.
The Bottom Line: I really recommend pulling your 3 credit reports from Annual Credit Report.com yearly. Taking a once-a-year once-over is a good habit to get into to check for errors that you may not be able to see by using one of the free service described above.
Some Notes on the VantageScore: The VantageScore is considered the most fair way to determine credit, because it doesn’t put as much emphasis on length of credit history. As a younger person, this is something my credit is still struggling with. However, most financial institutions do not use the VantageScore (yet), so while it is a good indicator for your own personal use, it may not be the best to make financial decisions on just yet.
“Free” Credit score services are everywhere on the internet. However, realize that you need to give some personal information to the website in order to pull your credit score, so when utilizing one of these sites, be sure to verify the security and credibility of the company and website.
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