Have you checked on your credit lately? It’s important to know where your score stands and monitor your report regularly. This can help you be more prepared if you ever need to use credit and avoid any unfortunate situations like becoming a victim of identity theft.
When I first started checking and monitoring my credit, I felt pretty confused as there were several websites out there that claimed to show me my credit score and report, plus I had to consider the three main credit bureaus all of which had different scores listed for me.
Before, I reveal the best ways to check your credit for free, I’m going to explain the reasoning why it may seem like you have so many different scores along with how to avoid those sites that claim to offer you a “free” credit score but are really just baiting you to pay a monthly fee.
So, Why Do You Have Different Credit Scores
While you probably know there are three major credit bureaus that include TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian, you may not know that you actually have hundreds of different credit scores. Thus, there’s really no way to track or consider them all.
There are many different formulas and algorithms that dictate what your score is and they are updated constantly which is why what you are able to see may never match what a lender sees exactly. The best thing you can do, is keep working to build your credit to improve your score and track it online using one of the trusted sources below. Use the score you see as a general idea of where you’re at.
Your FICO Score vs. Your Vantage Score
You may have heard the words ‘FICO score’ and ‘Vantage score’ thrown around before, but what do they actually mean? Your FICO score is used more widely among lenders. FICO scores range from 300 – 850. The FICO scoring model has been updated quite a few times and uses slightly stricter standards. Right now, many lenders are using either FICO 8 or FICO 9 as a scoring model to determine your credit score.
The Vantage score was created in 2006 as a competitor to the FICO score. Your Vantage score uses a scoring model that combines a set of consumer credit files from all three major credit reporting agencies to come up with a single score. Your score may vary depending on whether FICO or Vantage scoring models are being used because there are some noticeable differences.
For example, FICO and Vantage treat paid-off collections differently where FICO does include them for scoring purposes while Vantage often disregards them.
Vantage scores range used to range from 501 to 990, but the more recent scoring model–VantageScore 3, ranges from 300 – 850. With both types of scoring models, the lower your score, the more at-risk you are to lenders.
Learning about these two different scoring models can seem confusing, but this breaks things down in a simpler manner. The only thing you need to keep in mind is which scoring model is being used when you do check your credit. There’s no right or wrong scoring model be the way because it all depends on which one the potential lender or creditor is using.
Ready to check your credit for free now? Here’s what you need to know.
Not All Free Credit Check Sites Are Created Equal
There are tons of ads out there for sites that will allow you to ‘check your credit for free’. You must be aware that many of these sites are only telling half the story up front.
Some companies try to reel you in by letting you see your credit score for free only AFTER you enter a credit card number to sign up for a free trial. While there’s nothing wrong with a free trial, it becomes a hassle when you forget to cancel it and get stuck with a fee.
Also, some of these sites only let you view one of your credit scores from one credit bureau for free. You’ll need to pay to see the other scores and probably won’t even see your credit report either. Seeing your score without your full report won’t really help you understand the full picture. Hence, why these sites should be avoided.
Try these other free resources instead – Also don’t forget to download my free checklist including the ‘dos and dont’s of checking your credit for free online’ at the bottom of this post.
AnnualCreditReport.com is a well-known way to check your entire credit report for free. This site is authorized and will provide you with a full report from all three credit reporting agencies after you answer basic questions to confirm your identity.
The only catch is that you can only use this site for free once per year which is why you should print out your report when you receive it so you can reference it later.
2. Discover’s Credit Scorecard
Discover’s Credit Scorecard is a great online tool you can use to check your FICO score at no cost. Along with showing you your FICO score, you can also see important information about your credit profile like your payment history, revolving credit, number of inquiries, etc.
Even if you’re not a Discover customer, you can use this site for free.
CreditSesame provides you with your credit score and report card along with monitoring and alerts about changes to your credit report.
CreditSesame’s uses a Vantage score and their report card provides you with a complete credit analysis including a summary of your payment history, utilization percentage, debt-to income ratio and more.
4. Your Credit Card Company
If you have a credit card, you might be able to view your credit score for free through your credit card company. I’m embarrassed to say that had a Citi credit card for well over a year before I realized they provided my FICO score for free on my statements. Other banks and credit card companies I know that do this include: Discover, American Express, and Barclaycard.
Be sure to check your card member agreement and your statements to see if you can view your credit score for free as well. The only downside may be that you can only view your score quarterly in some cases as opposed to monthly along with the fact that you may not get access to your report for free.
These are the best free ways to check your credit score, credit report, or both and see exactly where you stand. Be sure to check out these options before you resort to using a paid site or having to enter your payment information to be billed later.
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