Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Where To Check Your Credit Reports And Scores

This is part five in a series on Credit Card Education.

Part 1: General Credit Card Information
Part 2: Credit Reports and Scores Explained
Part 3: Building Your Credit - Your First Credit Card
Part 4: Fixing Your Credit – Tips And Tricks
Part 5: Where To Check Your Credit Reports And Scores
Part 6: Amex Financial Review
Part 7: Store Credit Cards
Part 8: Churning Credit Cards - Tips and Tricks

Part 9: Credit Cards With Great Signup Bonuses


Where To Check Your Credit Reports And Scores

So, you know that you need to check your credit reports and scores. But where do you check them? I compiled a list of places to check your credit reports and scores. See the bottom of the post for 'Credit Terms Explained'.
  • Just Credit Reports:
    Getting just your reports, without the scores, won't give you a quick answer to how good your credit is, although once you really understand credit, you can start understanding your credit just from looking at your credit report, without the score. It is important to check your credit reports to make sure there are not mistakes there, and to check for identity theft. These options listed below are totally free
    .

    • AnnualCreditReport.com
      The only official place to get your reports totally free, no strings or trials attached.Pro: Totally free report from all three CRA’s once a year. No trial to cancel. If you want, you can purchase a score as well from them. Reports are not 3-in-1.

    • Free Credit Reports
      Read this post for more information on how to get totally free Experian, Equifax and Transunion Reports, even once you've used your three annual reports from annualcreditreport.com.
  • Credit Reports With Scores
    Great for those that want to get a easy snapshot of their credit. The higher the score the better.
    Some of these offers are free while others cost:


    • Fico
      They have two main products:
      • ScoreWatch - Free Fico Score
        Comes with 30-day free trial for your Equifax report and FICO score. They will also monitor your Equifax report and score and update you with any changes.After the trial period is over it costs $89.95 a year.
        What I really like about this free trial is that they send you an email a week before the trial is over, reminding you to cancel! And you can cancel easily online, without speaking to anyone.
      • Fico Standard. $15.95 for each credit report and fico score.
        Use coupon code: myFICOis8 for 30% off your order.
        Update:
        As of 02/14/09 Fico no longer offers your Experian score.

      Their site is very clear and nice. You can see why your score is the way it is, what's good and what you need to improve. The only problem I have with Fico, is that they doesn't show you the actual credit card account numbers for the different cards, which makes it a lot harder to figure out which card is which if you have lots of cards. They also only show your inquiries for the past year, not two years. The inquiries only affect your score for one year anyway though, so that's not really an issue. Also, they don't show you your 'soft pulls', which also don't affect your score.

    • Quizzle
      Free Experian report and score every six months.
      Full Experian report and non-fico score.
      See my review
      .

    • CreditKarma
      Free Transunion score.
      No report, just score.
      See my review
      .


  • All Three Reports and Scores Plus Monitoring
    Any of the following three will get you a free 30-day trial for your 3-in-1 report and credit scores (NOT FICO) along with credit monitoring.

    • American Express Credit Secure - $11.99 a month. Unlimited credit reports and scores. This is the one I currently use, and recommend.
      If this doesn't work for you, then look at the next two.
    • Citi Identity Monitor - $12.95 a month . New reports and scores every 30 days.
      I don't really like the layout of their site, seems a bit confusing. You might find it simpler to just see your reports at annualcreditreport.com

    • Chase Identity protection - $11.99 a month. New reports and score only every 90 days.Their credit reports are somewhat confusing.
      I would Chase for the free trial, then cancel it, as they only give you new reports once every 90 days. If you are paying a monthly fee, you may as well use Amex, or if you don't have a Amex card, then at least Citi.


  • Monitor your credit:
    If you don't need constant access to your credit reports, but just want the protection of credit monitoring, this might be for you.
    Experian - $4.99 a month. They don't give you any report or score. They will let you know of any changes to your 3 credit reports. If you want basic protection against identity theft, then this is a great product.

General Recommendations:
1) Get your free reports from AnnualCreditReport.com.
2) Get your free trial to ScoreWatch for your fico score. (Its a good product to keep if you want to keep track of your fico score)
3) If you want to follow your credit, then either sign up for Amex, where you pay a monthly fee and get your three reports and non-fico scores every month. If you want to keep track of your fico score, then keep MyFicos's score watch, which keeps track of your Equifax Fico Score.
Remember to cancel all trials unless you want to keep the service.

  • More Free trials and sites for reports and non-Fico scores:
    • Equifax - $12.95 a month. 3-in-1 credit report - plus credit monitoring. You can get a new Equifax credit report as often as you wish. If you want a 2nd 3-in-1 report, you have to pay! Scores are not included. I really like their site, everything is clear and easy to read!
    • Experian - Freecreditreport.com: 7 day free trial ($14.95 afterwards). Experian report and score plus they monitor the other two reports for changes. This is not a 3-in-1 report.
    • Transunion - Truecredit.com - $14.95 a month plus tax. 3-in-1 credit report and scores plus credit monitoring. You can get new credit reports and scores as often as you wish. If you close their site you will be offered a free trial for just the Transunion report and score.
    • Privacyguard.com: $1 for the first month ($129.99 a year afterwards). 3-in-1 credit report and scores. Site is a bit confusing.
    • WaMu Credit Card:
      If you have a Washington Mutual credit card you can access your Transunion fico score free of charge. It gets updated automatically every month. (It is a variation of the fico score, called the Bankcard Fico, so it can be a few points off from your fico score).
      Update: Expired.



CREDIT TERMS EXPLAINED
Understanding the terms should help you decide what you need.

  • Does checking your credit hurt your score?
    The amount of times you check your own credit report has no effect at all on your credit report and score.

    Here's why: Whenever your credit report is looked at, there are two possibilities:

    • Hard pull: Anytime you apply for credit of any sort (sometimes even a bank account) the company will check your credit report, and leave a note that they looked at your report. This is called a hard pull, which will lower your score, as this means that you are risky because you are trying to get more credit.
    • Soft pull: When you look at your credit report or when a company looks at it to give you a preapproved offer, this is called a ‘soft pull’ which will not lower your score at all. When you look at your report, you can see all the ‘soft pulls’ but no other company will see all the soft pulls.

      Tip: If you request a Credit Line Increase (CLI) from a credit card, ask them if they can approve it without a ‘hard pull’.
  • FICO Score:
    There are different companies which make formulas to come up with your score (based on your report). The one which is used by most lenders and credit card companies is the FICO score. The problem is, that most scores being offered around the internet these days are not the FICO score! They can be different then your FICO score by as much as 50 points!

    If you are not planning on taking out a mortgage/loan anytime soon, then getting a non-fico score is not too bad. Just bear in mind that if you check your score each time somewhere else, you can end up with very different scores, because different companies formulate differently.

  • 3-in-1 Reports
    A 3-in-1 report is all three reports combined in to one easy to read report.
    It’s simpler if you can see all three credit reports combined in to one, and by each credit card account have: “Equifax says … Transunion says… Experian says...” That’s easier than reading everything that Equifax has to say about all your credit cards, then reading a separate report from Transunion etc. If you only have a few accounts, then getting a 3-in-1 report is not that important.

  • Credit Monitoring
    If you open lots of cards, or you are worried about identity theft, you might want to sign up with a credit monitoring service as well, like that you will be notified whenever something changes on your report.

6 comments:

Mendel B said...

Does "Equifax FICO score" mean there are three different Fico Scores?

mendel b said...

Shmuly thanks for the great post!

Shmuly said...

Yes, there are three different FICO scores.

The credit score is based on your credit report. Being that there are 3 credit reports (Equifax, Transunion and Experian), there are three different scores, one for each report.

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BR said...

Amex no longer gives the first month free. Instead they credit you for the first month after the second.

Shmuly said...

Thank You for pointing that out. I will update the article accordingly.

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