You may see a lot of companies in the credit management industry that love to emphasize the fact that they offer free credit scores. And for a long while, when you signed up with those services, there would be a catch. You were only offered free trials for a designated period of time, then once the trial was over, you were charged for access to your credit score. Of course, you can always get a FREE credit report as we are all entitled to receive one annually from each of the credit agencies, by law. But what about credit scores? This number is a bit of an obsession for Americans because it’s the key to securing not just good financing terms, but any kind of financing at all! Your credit score is one desirable way of easily checking the health of your credit by boiling down your rating into one number.
Recently though, new companies have sprung up that are challenging the way credit scores have been presented to the public. They have actually come up with products and services built around truly FREE credit scores. Let’s take a look at some of these great resources:
Where To Get Truly FREE Credit Scores
I’ve actually personally met a few people behind these great credit score offerings, given that these companies are right in my backyard.
1. Credit Sesame
I personally know the folks behind CreditSesame.com and they’ve really got a pretty good product you can check out. By becoming a member, you’ll have immediate access to your credit score, which you can check on a regular basis without cost. This score is based on data from Experian. Beyond the credit score, they also offer you features and tools that help you assess your debt picture and give you recommendations about what you can do to improve your situation. They also have a mortgage tool you can use to help you find targeted loan offerings based on your profile.
This company is based in Mountain View, California, and from my dealings with them, I believe they’re doing a fabulous job with offering a service that’s pretty valuable to users. You can read more about them in our Credit Sesame review. To become a member, you’ll need to supply your personal information, including your social security number, so that they can draw the necessary information from your credit file and process this information according to their algorithms.
2. Credit Karma
Credit Karma was the first site I came to know that offered free credit scores. Of course, there may have been more such sites around, but this company is probably the most well known for their focus on free credit scores. They will charge you nothing for your score but like Credit Sesame, you’ll have to provide your social security number so they can retrieve your credit history. They assure us that they’ve taken steps to ensure the security of our SSNs; as you’d expect, it’s encrypted and shielded on the site. With some exploration, you’ll see that Credit Karma makes their money through the typical affiliate sales and advertising monetization model that free service web sites provide. I’ve perused their blog as well, which has lots of useful credit-related info. For more on this company and their services, you can check out our Credit Karma review. Note that the credit score you receive here is based from data from the TransUnion credit bureau.
Now here’s an innovative scoring tool. Quizzle.com — which is brought to you by Quicken Loans. They’ve undergone a bit of a makeover over the last couple of years, when they used to provide a custom grade for several aspects of your financial life (e.g. they offered specific scores for your mortgage, monthly budget, rainy day fund and your home value and appreciation). But they’ve since reoriented their services to include a credit report from Experian, credit score, home value estimator, home loan recommendations and a budget planner. All of these are free, with no trial periods (as the case with all other services I’m mentioning on this list). What more, you can receive all this info without having to supply your social security number. You will need to supply some personal and financial information though, to get results.
If you look closely, you may also spot the upsell, which includes monthly subscriptions to a Quizzle Improvement Program that gives you concrete advice on how to improve your credit and financial picture (this is $29 a month), credit monitoring ($5 a month), ID theft protection ($15 a month) and debt management (which has a free trial but then will hit you with a monthly fee). By contrast, Credit Karma is promoting a new free credit monitoring feature on their site, and Credit Sesame’s whole premise is about giving you visibility into your debt via free debt analysis reports.
With all that, it may be a good idea to get yourself an account in all these sites!
4. Centrro.com (formerly known as KnowBeforeYouApply.com)
From Centrro.com, you’ll get some idea about what your credit score is, without the nitty gritty details. A few years ago, this site had a different name — it used to be called KnowBeforeYouApply.com, but I figure the name just got a bit too long so management changed it accordingly. Back then, I found the site to be a bit sparse. This time around, I didn’t see much more going on when I checked their Sign Up Page. The overall premise and goal of the site is to give you some idea of your creditworthiness; it works by giving you a credit grade from A to F, which is formulated through algorithms applied to your credit report and real credit score. They mention that they have relationships with credit bureaus from whence they get the raw info to produce your credit grade. But this site wants to offer more: once you register and get graded, you are supposed to be taken to your “personalized offers page”, where you’ll be pitched real-time credit and loan products that may suit your credit profile. The credit grade calculation is one step; while the second step involves matching you with credit and loan products.
Unfortunately, it looks like the site is under development or in “beta mode” and has a message for prospective users: you can only supply them your email address so they can message you when their service is ready. Supposedly, existing members can log in. Let us know if you’re a user of the site and if you have any feedback on Centrro.
This option won’t be handing you a free credit score, but it will offer you the next best thing, your free credit report, which is actually the basis of various credit scores anyway. If you’re fine with just picking up your credit reports with all their gory details, then you can get them for free from AnnualCreditReport.com. By law, you’re entitled to receive one free credit report each year from each of the big consumer credit reporting companies — TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. You may order these reports all at once to check them against each other and make comparisons, or you can decide to order one every few months so you’ll always have a snapshot of your credit health throughout the year.
6. Credit Score Estimators
The quickest way to get an approximate credit score is by trying out a fast and simple tool that churns out some estimate of your score without requiring you to register and provide your SSN number (partial or otherwise). Some examples of these tools are this credit score calculator and this myFICO score estimator. Mind you, these are just basic tools to give you some fuzzy idea about your credit score based on some questions you answer. For the real thing, you’ll have to get it from formal sources like the sites above, from myFICO.com or from the credit bureaus.
My Thoughts On These Credit Score and Credit Report Collection Services
According to these companies, using their tools won’t affect your actual credit score since any information gathering efforts they do from the credit bureaus are actually “soft pulls”. In my mind, each of these tools have a place in the marketplace, as we all use our credit information for various reasons. Depending on your requirements, you may try out all or a few of these resources: if you’d just like some basic idea of your credit standing, some of the newer, free credit score sites may be sufficient. If you want details and the complete picture, you may want to go for all-in-one data directly from the credit bureaus themselves (check our Equifax credit score and report article for more information). But to monitor your credit as cheaply as possible (meaning: no payout, no charge), you may get by with simply receiving your annual credit reports, which you can supplement with information you garner from checking your free score or grade via the aforementioned web sites and estimators.
Created October 10, 2008. Updated July 20, 2011. Copyright © 2011 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.