The only person I know who isn’t interested in their credit is someone who doesn’t want to buy a house or car, doesn’t have any credit cards, and has no worries about identity theft. However, if you’re well over the age of eighteen and use a credit card, then you may have a fairly sizable credit report. If you’re in this position, then it’s a good idea to monitor your credit effectively.
Sure, you can pay for a credit monitoring service, but you can save a bundle and do it on your own (with a few caveats). There are a few ways you can get your credit report for free. The basic gist here is that you can either:
- Monitor your own credit for free through a variety of methods. The easiest way is to order free credit reports via AnnualCreditReport.com. There are also certain circumstances under which you can receive a free report.
- Or subscribe to a credit monitoring service. If you subscribe to a service, they may offer a short trial period where you can test the service’s features to see if it’s right for you.
This post will review the variety of ways you can keep your eye on your credit on your own time. If you decide to watch your credit this way, you’ll save quite a bit of money over the course of a year. Many credit report monitoring services will charge you around $15 a month (or more) to do the job for you.
How To Get Free Credit Monitoring
There are several ways to monitor your credit for free, but it will entail some work on your end and may require some resourcefulness. Among the strategies:
- Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to get free annual credit reports. You are entitled to one free report from each of the three credit bureaus — Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Order one report per quarter from one of these bureaus (and order from a different bureau each quarter) to cover the full year.
- Ask for a free credit report from a credit bureau within 2 months of being denied credit. If you get denied credit, your lender may tell you which credit agency has provided the report. This will allow you to find out the cause of the rejection and to work on fixing what’s on your report.
- Get your report for free when you become unemployed. You can then contact the credit bureaus, inform them of your intention to find a job, and request for a free credit report, which you should be granted under The Fair Credit Reporting Act.
- Get a free report from your lender — but this may be putting the cart before the horse (since you want to review your credit information before shopping for loans).
- Go on welfare or government assistance. If you qualify for financial help from the government, you should be able to check on your credit information for free as well. Contact the credit bureaus and state your case.
- Find out if you’re a victim of ID theft. Becoming a victim of identity theft isn’t fun, but as a result, you may be able to request for a free credit report, especially if there are problematic items on your report due to the theft. This should give you the chance to clean up your report and repair your credit.
- Determine your credit when you are faced with any transaction that requires a credit screening. For instance, if you are applying to be a tenant, a landlord will check your credit and do a background screening to ensure that you’ll be a suitable tenant. Your landlord may provide you this information if you inquire.
- Get free proprietary credit scores through sites like Quizzle.com, CreditKarma.com or Credit Sesame. These are fairly new services that have been quite popular with consumers who are actively trying to improve their debt situation. For a more comprehensive look at these services, check out my review of Credit Karma and the review I wrote for Credit Sesame. However, note that these services provide their own scores and not FICO scores.
Take advantage of free trials from credit monitoring services. Lots of subscription services exist that offer free promotional offers. Many of these trials run for 7 days to a month. Here are a few samples of such services.
What To Buy Where To Buy Length of Trial Period Regular Cost Equifax Credit Score, Monitoring Go Free Credit 30 Days $16.95 a month Credit Scores, Monitoring Privacy Guard 30 Days $14.99 a month Credit Score Info Credit Score Pro 7 Days $19.95 a month TransUnion Credit Monitoring TransUnion 7 Days $16.95 a month Proprietary SMART Scores and Report Smart Credit 5 Days $29.95 a month Experian, Credit Monitoring Identity Lookout 7 Days $19.95 a month Credit Reports and Scores FreeCreditScore.com 7 Days $14.95 a month 3 Credit Scores, Credit Monitoring FreeScores USA 7 Days $29.95 a month 3 Credit Scores, Daily Credit Monitoring Free Score 360 7 Days $29.95 a month
If you go down this path, you may be able to snag a free credit report and score, but make sure you read the fine print and take note of when that trial will expire. Of course, having the trial lapse should be fine if you’re genuinely happy about the service. Some of these offerings may have some neat features and allow you to be more proactive about keeping an eye on your credit. In my opinion though, I would opt to receive the alerts from truly free services like Credit Karma and Credit Sesame before I try the paid ones.
While many folks may think that credit monitoring services are a waste of money, they are quite useful in one situation: if you’re thinking of shopping for a big loan in your future, then it’s actually a good idea to monitor your credit with a credit monitoring service prior to taking out loan applications. This will ensure that your credit is clean and will allow you to get the best rates for that hefty loan.
Plus, free credit information usually only consists of your credit report (unless you sign up for a free trial with a monitoring service). Because lenders also look at your credit score to assess your credit-worthiness, you may also want to know your score. As mentioned, there are proprietary ones you can get through certain sites like CreditKarma. For standard FICO scores, you should check out myFICO.com. To read more about how credit scores can vary, check out our article on Credit Scoring Differences: FICO vs Vantage Score.
Created August 9, 2010. Updated May 7, 2012. Copyright © 2012 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.