How To Find and Monitor Your Credit Score
Many people don’t realize how easy it is to find their credit score, and this is where financial advisers occasionally take advantage of a common misconception. It’s very easy to find your credit score by yourself, and even better than that -- you can find and monitor your credit score for free.
The three credit bureaus that are responsible for calculating credit scores (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian) are required by federal law to release, at minimum, one free credit report for every American annually. These reports can be found at AnnualCreditReport.com. And keep in mind -- since there are three bureaus involved, you can get three different reports per year, and you can choose when to get them. With a bit of organization, you can arrange to receive one report every four months.
Keep in mind that you’ll be required to answer some personal questions when you log on to check your score, and some of these may even be trick questions! Accidentally enter a few wrong answers -- or close out of the window by mistake -- and you may not be able to access the score again for another year, or you may have to request your score to be sent via snail mail.
Plenty of websites will advertise that they can provide you with a free credit score as many times as you want, without making you pay any upfront fees. And this is often true -- but usually only for your initial request. Many websites will ask that you provide your credit card number and set up a trial membership, and unless you cancel your trial in time, you’ll automatically be charged a membership fee.
Besides the free report that you’re entitled to receive every year, you can go to the official FICO website and request your score for about $20 per month, with a three month minimum subscription. This subscription allows you to check your score as often as you want, and it can be extremely beneficial if you’re planning on making any big financial decisions (like applying for a loan or a mortgage). You’ll be able to see how your present decisions affect your score, and you’ll be able to use a simulation tool that calculates, theoretically, how your score will be affected by future decisions.
It’s important to remember, however, that these reports can be confusing if you aren't familiar with credit analysis. Your credit score won’t go down just because you check it a few times a month, but if you aren't able to make sense of the numbers at all, then it really won’t matter how many times you check and re-check your score. A financial adviser will be able to access and interpret your score for you, as well as offer the same kinds of calculating tools and budgeting tips that you’d find on a credit score service website.
Regardless of how you go about doing it, regularly monitoring your credit score is one of the most important things you can do in order to stabilize and improve your score. Once you know what to look for, it will only take a few minutes to glance at your score and see if anything looks fishy. If a mistake or a theft has occurred, it will be much easier to solve and repair if you detect the error sooner rather than later.