How To Keep Track of Your Credit Score

A credit score is a vital piece of financial information that can determine if you will be approved for a loan and, if you are, what interest rate you will pay.  In addition, it can also affect whether or not you will be able to rent an apartment or get a certain job.  In short, it can affect many areas of your life, yet, according to a report on Frontline, only 2% of Americans know what their credit score is!

Credit scores are so important that it is vital that you educate yourself on how to find and monitor your credit score.  Here are a few strategies:

How to Get Your Credit Score

-Get it from MyFICO.  Any lender or other interested person will pull your credit score from FICO.  You, too, can directly pull your score to get the same number the inquiring credit agencies will get.  You can pull one for free if you sign up for a free 10 day trial.  The catch is that you must cancel your membership before the 10 days are up so you are not charged a recurring fee.

However, if you are planning to make a large purchase in a year or two, you may want to purchase your credit score.  MyFICO offers several different plans.  The FICO Standard Plan pulls your credit score (you can choose from Experian or TransUnion) and also details the positive and negative features impacting your credit score.  If you pull a report from only one of the agencies, this will cost $19.95; if you pull from both of the available agencies, you will pay $39.90.

How to Get an Educational Credit Score

There are a few free agencies that offer “educational” credit scores.  These are not the FICO score, and as such, they can be different by a few to as many as 100 points from your true FICO score.

-Use Credit Karma.  Credit Karma is a free site that lets you know your TransRisk New Account Score  from TransUnion.

In addition to giving you your TransUnion educational credit score, Credit Karma shares the average American’s credit score and compares yours to that score.  In addition, there are credit simulators that can show you how you could increase your credit score.

-Use Credit Sesame.  Credit Sesame is another free site that shares an estimate of your Experian score with you based on your credit report.

Credit Sesame offers a handy “what if” calculator that lets you input various data such as lower credit card balances or a higher income to see how your credit could potentially be affected.

-Order a Vantage score.  If you use Annual Credit Report to get your free credit report from each of the credit reporting agencies (TransUnion, Experian and Equifax), you can also request a credit score (though this will cost you about $15).  This score is calculated as a Vantage score which runs from 501 to 990 in comparison to FICO’s score that runs from 300 to 850.

Knowing your credit score is important.  If you have a major purchase coming up, you may want to spend a bit of money to learn what your exact FICO credit score is and ways to improve it.  If you just want to get a general idea of your credit score and monitor it occasionally, feel free to use one of the companies that offers you your credit score for free.