- Why you should keep an eye on your credit score.
- 7 ways to get a free credit check.
- Don't be surprised if lenders see a different credit score.
Why Check Your Credit?
Check your credit report once a year to learn if any surprises appear on your credit report. Incorrect account information or contact information could hurt your ability to get credit confuse a creditor and delay a loan application. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommends people watch for:
- Factual errors, including:
- Incorrect balances
- Incorrect credit limits
- Closed accounts listed as open, and vice-versa
- Incorrect delinquency dates
- The same account listed more than once
- An account listed as delinquent when it's not
- Errors in your identification, including:
- Misspelled name
- Wrong Social Security number
- Wrong address
- Wrong telephone number
- Signs of identity theft
- Loans you know nothing about
- Accounts you did not open
- An address where you've never lived
To learn what's in your credit reports, request copies from AnnualCreditReport.com. There is no fee for this service. Three companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — collection consumer information and publish credit reports. They are independent of each other, and as a result the information they have about you may vary. You can use AnnualCreditReport.com to request your credit report from one, two or all three. Dispute any errors you find, and if you suspect you are an identify theft victim, take these four steps to start recovering from this crime.
How to Get a Free (or Cheap) Credit Check
You can get a free or low-cost credit check seven ways:
Credit.com offers a no-cost VantageScore 3.0 based on information contained in your Experian credit report. The information is updated monthly. VantageScore is a competitor to Fair Isaac & Co.'s FICO score. Most mortgage and auto lenders use FICO, so the VantageScore's number may be higher or lower than the number your lender receives when it pulls your credit score.
Credit Karma offers a no-cost score based on your TransUnion credit report and TransUnion's proprietary credit scoring software. As a result, Credit Karma's score for you may be higher or lower than the FICO score a lender obtains when you apply for a loan.
Equifax does not offer a no-cost way to get your credit score. Equifax Credit Report and Score costs $16, and includes a copy of your Equifax credit report (which you can get for free from AnnualCreditReport.com and Equifax's proprietary credit scoring software. The Equifax number may be higher or lower than your FICO score.
Bankrate's FICO Score Estimator
A multiple-choice form you complete answering a dozen or so questions about your credit cards, loans, and payment history. At the end of the questionnaire, Bankrate gives you an estimated FICO score. This is of limited accuracy, and therefore not very useful.
Quizzle Free Credit Score
Quizzle offers various credit report and credit score related services ranging from no-cost to $25 per month. Quizzle uses Experian and offers Experian's proprietary CE Score as a credit score. Like all other non-FICO scores, it ain't FICO so it may be higher or lower than the score your lender sees.
"Free" Credit Score Web Sites
Several Web sites offer "free" credit scores, including this Bills.com credit score partner. These charge you $15 to $18 per month for credit monitoring and access to your credit score. You can sign up at one of these sites for a trial membership, get your score, and then cancel the service. Hence, the "free" score. None we've found offer FICO scores, so like the others listed above, your "free" score may be higher or lower than a FICO score a lender may see.
By law, if a lender turns you down for a loan, it must provide you with your credit score and the name of the consumer credit reporting agency — Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion — that provided the basis of the score. You have the right to ask that credit reporting agency for a copy of your credit report, too.