Are you applying for a loan soon? Are you making a major purchase soon? If you are planning any major financial moves, then you probably already know that you will have to provide your credit score.
But even if you don’t intend to open a line of credit, it’s a good idea to check your personal credit information regularly. Why? Well, you want to be on the lookout for scams, but you also want to keep track of your creditworthiness so you don’t overpay in interest rates when it comes time to borrow money.
What is the difference between a credit report and a credit score?
Your credit report is a detailed list of your credit scores, debt balances and payment history. You’ll want to make sure all information is accurate and up to date by checking your credit report regularly.
On the other hand, your credit score is a number that lenders use to rate your creditworthiness and compare you to other borrowers. There are three major credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian) that provide you with a credit score. It’s wise to monitor your credit score regularly to make sure it’s improving over time and to let you know where you are.
Read more: How Credit Works: Understanding the Credit Reporting System
Credit Report and Credit Score Basics
While there is no shortage of companies offering to change your credit score for a fee, you don’t have to pay for it at all.
First, you are legally entitled to receive one free credit report per year from each bureau. In addition, there are many websites that allow you to track your credit for free.
But before we look at where you can get your credit report and credit score for free, here are a few things you should keep in mind:
Checking your own creditworthiness will not lower your credit rating. You may have heard of “hard pull” and “soft pull” – these terms reflect whether a credit check will affect your score. For example, employers and insurance companies typically do a soft test that doesn’t affect your score, while lenders and credit card companies do a hard test that does affect your account. Checking your own account is not considered a difficult task.
Your FICO score and credit bureau score will be different. Bureaus provide a so-called Vantage score ranging from 501 to 990. However, this is not what lenders actually use. They use what’s called a FICO score, ranging from 300 to 850. Yes, it’s confusing, but don’t worry—your Vantage score will give a fairly accurate picture of your FICO score. For more information, check out our explanation of FICO scores.
Credit monitoring services will ask for personal information such as your Social Security Number (SSN). – They must verify your identity and obtain your credit information.
Beware of credit monitoring websites that require a credit card number to verify your report or score. – they will probably charge your card monthly unless you cancel your subscription.
Where to Get a Free Credit Report and Credit Score
Okay, now that you know the basics, here are the most popular options for getting your (legally) free credit report and credit score:
Credit Sesame promises that you can get your credit report and credit score for free within 90 seconds of creating an account on their website.
You will get instant and completely free access to your credit score and TransUnion report, as well as:
- Free monthly updates to your credit score and TransUnion report.
- Daily monitoring and alerts on changes to your TransUnion credit report.
- $50,000 identity theft insurance.
Premium (paid) options are available from Credit Sesame for users who want to track all three credit scores or want to increase their identity theft insurance.
Credit Sesame also offers many free tools to help you improve your credit score.
Try Credit Sesame or read our full review.
In addition to credit reports, Credit Karma offers financial products ranging from personal loans to checking accounts. To access your free credit report and credit score, you just need to create an account and answer a few questions about your spending habits.
Credit Karma receives your credit score and credit report from Equifax and TransUnion. Your credit reports can be updated weekly and you can check your credit score as often as you like. Credit Karma also offers a free credit monitoring tool that allows you to spot any credit errors as they occur.
There’s a catch, however: in exchange for free credit scores and reports, Credit Karma collects information about your spending habits in order to show you targeted ads.
Try Credit Karma or read our full review.
With Experian, you can create a new free credit report and credit score every 30 days. You just need to complete an online application to verify your identity.
Experian also offers a free credit reporting service, credit alerts, and dark web surveillance.
For a fee, you can subscribe to premium Experian packages that include credit monitoring and alerts from all three credit bureaus.
Try Experian or read our full review.
CreditWise is a service offered by Capital One (for everyone, not just Capital One customers) that allows you to keep track of your credit score and credit report for free anytime you log in.
CreditWise also tracks your social security number, scans the dark web on your behalf, and sends you automatic alerts from both Experian and TransUnion.
Try CreditWise or read our full review.
Many of the free credit reporting tools, including credit bureaus, will actually send you to AnnualCreditReport.com to get a free credit report. (Remember, the three credit bureaus are required by law to offer you a free copy of your credit report each year.)
You can download your free credit report by verifying your identity online on the registration page.
However, it is important to note that your credit score is not included in your bureau credit report. This means that you can Only get a free credit report here. If you also want to check your credit checkyou will have to consider other credit monitoring services or pay a fee to one of the bureaus.
Experian is currently the only bureau that offers free credit monitoring. Equifax offers a variety of credit monitoring packages starting at $9.95 per month, while TransUnion charges a monthly fee of $24.95 for credit monitoring services.
It’s important to keep track of your credit score so you know where you are and if you need to work on improving your credit. Having a higher credit score can bring you many benefits, from giving you access to more premium credit cards, to cheaper insurance for your home or car, and lower interest rates on bank loans for larger purchases.
Luckily, there are many free ways to get your credit report and credit score so you don’t have to worry about other costs.
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