By now most American consumers probably know that they can obtain their credit reports for free.
Once a year, anybody can order a gratis credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You can obtain any of the reports by heading to AnnualCreditReport.com.
Obviously, it’s a smart idea to take advantage of this opportunity. By reviewing your credit report annually, you can spot mistakes and search for any signs that a low-life identify thief has burrowed into your credit profile.
But what has been infuriating about the free reports is that these documents don’t provide you with your credit score. And it’s that credit score which largely determines what kind of interest rates that car salesmen, mortgage lenders and credit card issuers will give you. Even employers, insurers and landlords are making decisions about people based on this score. The scores range from 300 (horrible) to 850 (tremendous). To get the best credit deals, your score usually has to be at least 700 to 720.
When you visit annualcreditreport.com, you’ll be encouraged to purchase your credit score, but now there is a way to obtain these important numbers without paying.
An article in The Wall Street Journal last week discussed three web sites where you can peek at your scores for free. Coincidentally, a friend had been bragging about his credit score just a couple of days earlier — he had learned what it was when applying for a home equity line of credit. After reading the article, I decided to obtain my own scores at Quizzle.com and CreditKarma.com. At both sites, the process was very quick. (My friend beat me by six points.)
These alternative credit scores don’t come from Fair Isaacs, which will share your FICO score with you for a fee. Instead the free scores are formulated by either TransUnion or Experian. They differ a bit from FICO calculations, but it’s insignificant.