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.
Before we delve into where you can get your credit score and report, you should know some of the basics surrounding your credit.
Whether you access your free annual credit report from the 3 agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) or you subscribe to a monthly credit monitoring service, you may think you are getting the same score the lenders get. Many consumers are taken by surprise when the credit score they purchased prior to applying for credit does not match the lender's credit score.
There are two main reasons why credit scores differ. There are either discrepancies in the methods they use for reporting or they are using different scoring models.
It is at the discretion of both lenders and other creditors to decide when and what information to report as well as which agencies to report to. Some lenders are providing reports on a monthly basis, where collection agencies may only report on a quarterly basis. There are also agencies that only provide reporting to a single credit reporting agency. If there is just a one week difference in reporting information to the agencies, that is enough to make a difference in the score you receive from each one. Given that the reporting agencies do not share information between each other, the score and report you buy may very well be different than what the lender has.
The method used for calculating your score varies for each credit reporting or monitoring agency. Their calculations are based on complex statistical, mathematical or algorithmic models. These proprietary scoring models are protected by patents, trademarks and copyrights.
Generic credit scores are used as educational tools for you by credit monitoring services. They can help you learn how to go about increasing your score over time. They can also help you understand how your score is affected by things like late payments, opening new accounts or paying off debt.
Industry credit scores tell, for example, car lenders your payment history for your car loan. This score is most likely different from your mortgage or credit card score. If you have ever had a car repossessed, your auto industry score will probably be low in comparison to your mortgage industry score if you have not had any mortgage delinquencies.
Custom credit scores are often based on a lender's own in-house system. Having the ability to calculate a custom score based around the lender's specific credit products and customer base allows them to better assess the creditworthiness of a consumer. Specific lenders like auto, mortgage and credit cards are often using their own proprietary scores.
Take an Active Role in Providing Your Own Credit Information
You have no way of controlling what credit scores you or a lender will receive at any given time. What you do have control over is the information in your credit file and making sure it is accurate and current. Check to make sure your personal details like name, address, birth date, Social Security number and employment information are correct and up to date. If you have a common name, make certain your report does not contain other people's information. If you are receiving collection agency notices, call the original creditor and have them check their reporting. Having duplicate items on your report can affect your credit score. If you do correct or dispute any items, make sure you do so with all three bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion).
You do not have to be a victim of identity theft or fraud. There are steps you can take to protect yourself.
The first step is to access your credit report and carefully review it:
If you have reason to believe that fraud has taken place on your credit report, applying a fraud alert to it is the first step. There are two types, an initial fraud alert and an extended fraud alert.
If you think fraud has occurred but are not entirely sure, you can set up an initial fraud alert which lets lenders know you may have been a victim of fraud. The lenders will then be extra vigilant when it comes to giving someone a line of credit in your name.
If you know for sure that fraud has occurred, you can request an extended fraud alert. This type of high alert requires either a victim statement or police report. Before lenders will approve any credit application in your name, they will need to verify your identity over the phone.
Keep in mind that any fraud alert placed on your report may slow down your approval process for any new lines of credit.
In addition to the steps mentioned above, if you believe your identity has been compromised, you should:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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: