About every few months, you hear of another enormous data breach of a large financial company and how you should check your credit reports carefully to make sure nothing is amiss.
These days, you’re apparently not even safe if you add fraud alerts to your credit report or freeze it entirely. Some of the security practices at these credit agencies is so bad that they can still be hacked even after a previous hack.
So your best bet is to keep an eye on your own credit reports and scores and make sure nothing is going on there that you don’t already know about. In this article, I’m going to show you how to get your credit report for free, which you can do once a year. Secondly, I’m going to show you how to get your free credit score, which you can get pretty much on a daily basis.
Free Credit Report
Let’s start off with the free credit report. You’ve probably heard of how to do this by now, considering how it’s the first thing every site says you should do after any kind of data breach.
AnnualCreditReport.com is the sole site that provides the free credit reports. If you are not on this site, it is a scam site.
Even though it’s the only site for getting your free credit reports, it thankfully works well. Just click the Request your free credit reports link and follow the directions. You normally have to answer some personal questions first for security reasons before you can proceed.
After that, you can view and download the credit reports from each of the three credit reporting companies. It’s simple and easy and definitely something you should make sure to do once a year.
Free Credit Scores
Now with credit scores, it’s a whole different ballgame. Firstly, it’s important to understand that there are a bunch of different credit score algorithms and different companies use different ones.
For example, some companies use the FICO score, which is quite popular. Another company might use the VantageScore, which was created from a different set of banks and financial institutions.
Your credit score will basically never be same across all these scoring models. I normally see a 10 to 20 point difference between the various scoring models. If you see any significant difference ever, you should contact one of the three credit reporting agencies.
The best way to get your free credit score is to simply log into all of your credit card accounts. Just about every credit card company now offers a free credit score on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
For example, I logged into my Discover account and there was a link at the bottom where I could view my FICO score for free.
I clicked on that link and I got a nice graph with my FICO score over time. It also gave me details about what factors are currently affecting my current score, so I can try to take action if I want a higher credit score.
Same thing with my Citi credit card. Go to Card Benefits, Credit & Account Protection and then FICO score.
Citi also works with FICO, but you can see that the score is different between companies and even depending on the day. Most of the credit card companies will update your score once a month.
If you’re a Capital One customer, you would sign up at Credit Wise. Even though it’s a product from Capital One, anyone can sign up for it, even if you are not using Capital One. Both Credit Journey and Credit Wise use the VantageScore 3.0 credit score.
Other Sites & Services
Outside of the credit card companies, you have other financial services companies that give you free credit scores also. Two of my favorites are Mint and Credit Karma.
Credit Karma uses the VantageScore and Mint currently uses the FICO score, however, Mint is switching to VantageScore also in October of 2017. That score seems to be becoming more popular than FICO.
Credit Karma gives you the score from TransUnion and Equifax. If you click on View score details, you get all kinds of details on the credit factors that are helping and hurting you. These include credit card usage, payment history, derogatory remarks, credit age, total accounts and hard inquiries. You also basically get your full credit report too, so it’s a really nice service that is completely free.
Mint is more geared towards those who want to manage all their financial accounts in one place, but it can also be used to just get your credit score. I’ve been using it for many years now, even before it got bought out by Intuit, and it’s been a great for keeping track of all my financial info.
Again, all of the free credit score sites listed above also give you details about your credit report (open/closed accounts, derogatory remarks, etc), so even if you don’t have your free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com, you can pretty much see everything using these sites.
There are other sites that can give you this info, but I would stick to these as they are from large reputable companies and the last thing you want to do is give personal information to a scam site by accident. Hopefully, you won’t be a victim of financial fraud and you’ll be able to increase your credit score. Enjoy!