Most people I know would run towards anything free until they heard the word ‘credit’ in the same sentence. Then there would be the all-too- familiar dust from a comic, and that would be all you would see of those people making tracks get as far away as possible!
[Read: Easy Ways to Improve Your Credit Score]
On a more serious note, though, you really have to be careful when searching for companies that offer a free credit score. There have been so many imposters not-so-long-ago, that offered this service and then, a short time after, began to charge the customer monthly. Sometimes it only took weeks before they were charged. If nothing else, it taught us to read the fine print when we saw the word free. Anytime anything that says free and wants my credit card number is abruptly abandoned.
The one place you can go once a year to check on your credit reports is to the AnnualcreditReport.com website that the government requires to be open to the public once a year. When you go, write it down on a calendar, because you can only access it once a year. Scores are not as important since there are three of them. What is important is what is in those reports and that they are correct. A free credit score is really just the ‘mean’ of the three numbers combined or the number on the report that the company to which they have access. Either way, it is not the same thing that the loan department, car dealership, or mortgage officer is looking at when determining your creditworthiness. It is your credit history. A free credit score just gives you an idea on how healthy your credit is at a glance. Of course, if your score is high, many lenders tend not to delve into your history that much.
Here is a list of some of the reputable companies that offer a free credit score and/or report:
Bits and Pieces Before You Get that Free Credit Score
There are a few things to keep in mind before you sign up for your free credit score.
1. Sharing personal information will be necessary.
There is just no way out of this. The company has to be sure that they have the right person and need to ask you personal questions, such as;
- Full Name
- Date of Birth
- Social Security Number
- Alias(as) or Married Name(s)
It is just to secure your identity. Filling the form out does not take long at all.
2. Make sure to read all the fine print before you sign up or move to the next page.
This is important because you can find yourself at a “credit card” form because you checked a box that added on a ‘fee service’ like identity protection (unless you want it.)
3. What you see as your free credit score may not be what the lender sees.
Most of your companies out there that offer free credit scores use only one report, so you are only seeing one score. Your lender may be looking at an entirely different report, and they differ on the score quite a bit sometimes. The key is to look at the grades of your report.
4. It is best to sign up for more than one free Credit Report Company and check often.
The reasoning behind this idea is that each company has access to a different report, maybe more and that when you compare your reports and the grades you have in each, you are more aware of how your credit is impacted by someone checking on your credit, whether it is a loan officer, credit card company, or a mortgage lender. It will also help you determine what you need to do if you need to straighten out your credit or if there is some misinformation that needs your attention. They also offer advice, suggest options for credit cards and types of loans. If you’re not interested, you can always toss it in your email trash. Basically, getting a free credit score does have it’s perks when you get access to other kinds of services for free. It is an excellent idea to use AnnualCreditReport.com, as well. You can print them off or download them to your computer.
[Read: Mistakes that Affect Your Credit Score]
5. Don’t Let the Free Credit Scores Collect Dust
Once you have the knowledge of your free credit scores in your hands, it is time to get to the point. Look for things that may be wrong with your reports. You need to be proactive about your credit reports so there are no surprises when you have an application already out there. Cleaning up your credit can raise your scores for better opportunities even in the job market.