Most sites that offer a “free credit report,” are not really free. Many require you to sign up to some monitoring program that starts off around $15/month.
Free credit monitoring
A do-it-yourself approach exists courtesy of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. This act requires each of the credit reporting firms (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) to provide one free copy of your report, upon request, every 12 months. You can obtain your report, no strings attached, by visiting annualcreditreport.com. By Staggering your request every 3-4 months you can monitor your own credit report.
Free credit score
Want to know your credit score? With annualcreditreport.com you’ll have to pay a fee, but there are now credible sites that will give you a credit score with no strings attached. I evaluated two of these sites: Quizzle and Credit.com.
Quizzle.com is an independant company formerly run by Quicken Loans. In less than five minutes I set up my account, answered a few questions and received a free Experian credit report and my Experian credit score. Quizzle also provides tailored advice on how to improve credit, home value, budget, mortgage or savings.
Some of these recommendations shed light as to how this site makes money, but none of these features obstruct access to your credit score and report. Overall, I like this site. I was under no obligation to take part in any of the services and I can request a new credit report and score (for free) every 182 days. This means I now have two more opportunities to monitor my credit report.
Credit.com is the second site I reviewed. This site does not give you an actual credit score. Rather, it provides a credit grade based on payment history, debt usage, credit age, account mix, and credit inquiries.
The grade is tied to credit score ranges so you’ll have a good idea of how you stack up. Credit.com is more up-front about the various pay and subscriber services they offer. You must enroll if you want to know your actual credit score or to receive a copy of your credit report. For my purpose, I found the credit range a viable alternative.
Why check your credit report?
A credit report includes information on where you live, how you pay your bills, whether you’ve been sued, arrested or have filed for bankruptcy. Make sure the information is accurate and up-to-date before you take out a loan, apply for insurance or a job.
Check for identity theft
I’ve given you five opportunities a year to check your credit report. Use these opportunities to check against identity theft. Identify theft occurs when someone uses your personal information (name, social security number or credit card) to commit fraud. For example, identity thieves may use your information to open a new credit card in your name. When they don’t pay the bills the delinquent account is reported on your credit report. Inaccurate information could affect your ability to get credit, insurance or even a job.
If you find any errors in your credit report, contact the credit reporting agencies and the information provider (credit card, loan agency, etc) to advise them of what you think is inaccurate. They will investigate the matter and provide you with written results. Learn more about report errors by visiting annualcreditreport.com.