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Your credit scores are very important when you are trying to open a new credit card, get a loan or even rent an apartment. Many people don’t consider the impact their credit has on their lives until it’s already negatively influenced them.
This guide will describe several credit reporting companies that will enable you to monitor your credit scores and credit reports, all of which are free.
Moreover, you will learn about a couple of sites that can help you raise your credit scores. Finally, at the end of this guide you will find many articles to help you learn more about your credit scores, the factors that impact your scores and how you can improve your credit.
About Credit Scores
Credit scores are used by many lenders in their approval process to determine if the consumer is likely to pay back the line of credit. The most popular credit scoring model is provided by FICO, Fair Isaac Corporation, and is used by about 90% of lenders. The second most common credit scoring model is by VantageScore.
Credit scores from both FICO and VantageScore range from 300 to 850 and determine if you’ll be approved for a new line of credit as well as the interest rate you’ll pay. Each lender has their own ranges that they use to determine credit worthiness, but it’s important to monitor your credit score and work to improve it over time.
Free Credit Reports
Your credit scores are based on your credit reports. So you should monitor what is reported on your credit reports in order to manage your credit responsibly.
This is the easiest and safest way to check all 3 of your credit reports (one from each major credit bureau including Experian, TransUnion and Equifax). Each bureau may have different information regarding your credit accounts and payment history, which is why it is important to check your credit reports at each bureau every year. AnnualCreditReport.com is sponsored by all 3 credit reporting agencies and is authorized by the federal government. You can check your credit reports through this site once a year for free. You will be able to review and save each credit report, however you will not see your credit scores. To find out your credit scores, there are several free options below.
Free Credit Scores
It’s important to note that there are companies that require you to pay to see your credit scores. We haven’t used any of these sites ourselves, so we don’t recommend them. There are free options that provide as much value, in our opinion. Checking your credit score through the below sites does not impact your credit score.
A simple way to check your VantageScore credit score is by going to Credit Karma and getting a free account. You can login any time and check your credit scores based on your TransUnion and Equifax credit reports. You can also receive emails if there is a change in your credit score, such as from opening a new account or missing a payment. This is helpful to monitor your credit and be notified of any fraudulent activity on your credit reports.
Our take: We have used Credit Karma for over 5 years and we check it often. The downside is that it uses VantageScore, which is not used by as many lenders as FICO. However, Credit Karma is still helpful as it provides personalized recommendations for how to improve your credit and notifications.
You can get your FICO credit score for free from Experian. It offers access to your Experian credit report and includes credit monitoring and alerts. It’s so beneficial to have access to your FICO score for free as there are sites that charge for this. Of course there are paid options, but personally we use the free option and find it very valuable.
Our take: While we find that Credit Karma is easier to use, it does not provide your FICO credit score. This makes accessing your free FICO score from Experian so valuable. We check both sites often and have notifications set up on each since they pull from different credit reports. Before we apply for a new line of credit, we also save our credit scores from Credit Karma and Experian to reference if necessary.
Your Own Bank
Many banks have started providing free access to customer’s credit scores. We have Wells Fargo and are able to check our FICO score for free, but there are many other banks that offer this as well. These credit scores generally use newer credit scoring models then you will find on free sites so it’s closer to what lenders will see. Check on your bank’s site or app to see if you can see your credit score.
There are many credit repair companies out there. Many of them work by taking your money and then doing what you can do by yourself. This is different from debt consolidation. Instead, keep your money and spend some time learning how to improve your credit. This knowledge will benefit you for your entire life and save you much more money in the long-run. Below you will find a couple of options to help you improve your credit.
Raise Your Credit Scores
Below are two sites that can help you improve your credit scores. The way they work is by adding bills you are already paying to your credit report. This includes things like rent or smaller, recurring bills like Netflix. In turn, if you pay these bills on time each month, your credit scores that use those credit reports will increase.
Experian Boost enables you to improve your credit score by adding payments that are left out of your credit history, like cell phone, utility bills and even Netflix, to your Experian credit report. This will only affect your Experian credit report and thus will only improve credit scores that use Experian’s report in their calculation. This can be a good and easy alternative or supplement to other steps you might take to build your payment history. The best part is that it’s free!
If you are a renter, your rent is not reported to credit bureaus like mortgage payments. So you’re basically missing out on a boost to your credit score! However, with RentReporters you can get up to 2 years of rent payments added to your TransUnion and Equifax credit reports. This means that credit scores that use these credit reports in their calculation will increase if you have paid rent on time each month. On average, people who use this service see an immediate credit score increase of 40 points. This service is not free, however it can be very valuable for a renter who wants to raise their credit score quickly.
One of the main focuses of our site is personal credit, so we have many articles on this topic. It’s something we’re passionate about because many people don’t know much about their credit or how they can improve it.