A sudden, unexpected change in your credit score may be the first warning you get that someone has stolen your financial identity, so keeping track of your score has become a “must” for maintaining your privacy and security. In the past, doing so would be difficult and/or expensive, but a range of new options now exist for tracking your score for free.
Here are three free ways to keep track of your credit:
Pull All Three Major Bureau Reports Annually. This should be a once-a-year ritual for anyone who is concerned about their credit. What you should know is that the three big companies that keep track of your credit (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian) are required by law to provide you with their full reports for free once a year. To accommodate this, the companies teamed up to produce https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action.
This is about the only site where you can get all three reports once a year for free with no advertising come-ons and no strings attached. It’s important to keep this in mind, because other companies that promise you a “free credit score” or access to your reports may require you to sign up for a trial of their fee-based credit tracking service just to get a look at your reports. Use the link above to get no-hassle access to all three reports.
See if Your Credit Card Company Offers a “Free FICO Score” Option: In the past year, many credit card companies have signed onto a FICO program that allows them to offer customers a way to track their FICO scores free of charge. FICO (formerly Fair Isaac) is the main “go to” credit scoring system that creditors use to evaluate your credit-worthiness. FICO uses information from all three big credit bureaus – as well as their own data analytics – to assess your credit worthiness, and assign you a score.
The “Free FICO Score” program is relatively new, so your financial institution may have signed on without you even being aware of it. So check! You can also look into getting a card from one of the many credit card issuers that now offer this program, (or a similar one using a TransUnion score).
Sign Up for Free Credit Tracking from These Companies: Another option for tracking your credit that is relatively new are the services provided by companies including Credit Karma, Credit Concierge, Credit Sesame and Quizzle. These companies require you to give them personal information, (including your social security number), but they don’t require you to buy anything to get ongoing access to your credit score. They also don’t require that you have a credit card or loan account. Anyone can see what their credit score is by signing up.
These companies’ business models involve charging credit issuers money in exchange for extending their credit offers to members of the company sites. So, when you sign on for one of these services, you will receive credit offers from time to time. That’s really the only “gotcha” we’ve found, since you can use these services to get access to your score – and alerts if there is any activity on your credit report – without having to pay them a fee. Most of these services use a TransUnion score.
Since we’ve mentioned the Big Three, as well as free scoring models from FICO and others, it’s worth noting that you do not have “a credit score” – you have several different ones. Also, there are different scoring systems from each of these companies that are used by creditors for different purposes. Each scoring model is slightly different from the others, so it’s good to have access to more than one.
However, what you are mostly concerned with are sudden changes to your credit reports. These are triggered when a credit account is opened using your name and Social Security Number – or even when there is a “hard” credit inquiry on your credit. This type of activity will show up on credit scoring models used by all of these companies, so you can get by with just Free Fico or the TransUnion scores. It’s always best to have more than one, though, and don’t forget to check all three big reports once a year.
Related: 5 Ways to Improve Your Credit Score