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Understanding your Credit Report and Credit Score

Nowadays there are many ways to go about accessing your credit score and credit report.  Many of the companies out there offer pretty much the same services, they may just present them differently.  Your credit score is crucial because both creditors and lenders utilize this information when deciding to do business with you.  For this reason, it behooves you to find out what your credit score is 6 to 18 months ahead of applying for any type of loan, housing or job.  You will get insight as to if you would be approved, what type of rates you will qualify for and most importantly, if it is necessary to try and increase your score.

understanding credit report


Before we delve into where you can get your credit score and report, you should know some of the basics surrounding your credit.

The Difference Between a Credit Report and a Credit Score

  • Credit Reports provide an in-depth look at all the loans you have taken out as well as any credit cards you have used.  For every account, your credit report will show your history of payments, your credit limits and balance, the date when the account was open, and if you have since closed it.  In the US, there are three major credit reporting bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Each of them gathers info about consumers' personal details and as well as their habits when it comes to paying bills.
  • Your credit score is a 3 digit number that is determined by the information that is contained in your credit report.  This number is then used by lenders to gauge how "creditworthy" you are.  Although each credit reporting company calculates scores differently, they all utilize a mathematical algorithm to factor in things like your payment history, balances you owe, how far your credit history dates back etc. This score does fluctuate over time in order to portray an accurate picture of your present financial behavior.

Accessing your credit score and credit report should not be a painful process.  Below is a list of top websites that offer both credit scores and reporting.


Fast3CreditScores.com is part of the few companies that provide you with your credit score from the three major credit bureaus. This is especially beneficial since you will be able to monitor any discrepancies and spot identity theft that might show up on any of the 3 credit reports. This company has been in business since 1992, and has become one of the more reliable credit score/report services out there.   They are accessible in all states outside of Rhode Island and Iowa.  They offer a 14 day free trial (after that it is $19.99/month) that includes:

  • Monthly 3-Bureau Scores
  • Daily Credit Monitoring and Alerts
  • Credit Information Hotline
  • Identity Fraud Support Services


PrivacyGuard is a credit monitoring service that also supplies credit scores and reports from the 3 major bureaus.  This is key because data that shows on one credit report may not show up on the others.  The only true way to have knowledge of what is happening with your credit is to monitor all three. They offer you a 14 day trial for $1 (cost is $19.99 after that) and you get the above plus:

  • 24/7 Credit Monitoring from all 3 Major Bureaus
  • Monthly Credit Score Tracking- They will alert you if they spot a big change in your credit.
  • Toll-Free Support Hotline where you can call for credit info or help with identity theft
  • Support for Identity Fraud- They assist you in disputing any fraudulent claims on your credit report


CreditKarma is very popular among the credit score sites as it is 100% free with zero obligation from you.  You are able to login everyday if you like and check both your score and report.  The credit score is updated daily and your credit report is updated weekly. Here is what you get...all for free:

  • 2 free credit scores from both TransUnion and Equifax as well as a credit report
  • Credit tools that help educate you on what goes into your credit score
  • Credit monitoring to help spot potential identity theft


MyFICO is pretty much the only company out there that gives you access to a triple-bureau credit report and FICO credit scores.  These credit scores are considered the industry standard and are used by the majority of lenders out there.  They do not offer a free trial but for $29.95 per month, here are a few key benefits you will receive:

  • A 3 bureau credit report that comes with 19 different FICO scores, as well as details on what types of lenders use which score and tips on how to increase it.
  • Feedback and tips on how to boost your score on how to increase your score based on where it is currently at and what your next steps should be.
  • Daily credit monitoring of all 3 credit bureaus
  • An extensive library of current educational materials to help you better understand how credit works.

90% of Top Lenders use FICO® Scores


This company has been around for a while and is known for providing good credit monitoring and assistance. They offer a 14 day free trial (after that it is $19.99/month) and with that you will get access to your credit score and report from the 3 bureaus.  Also included for free with your trial are the following:

  • 24/7 monitoring of all 3 bureaus with the ability to customize alerts and receive them via text, phone or email
  • Access to scores that update monthly
  • Credit application monitoring
  • Access to their credit simulator which allows you to see how certain changes can affect your scores

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