In order to build the best credit score you can, you first have to know where you stand. That means you need to get your credit score in the first place. And you need a way of retrieving it on a regular basis too.
One sure way to have regular access is to sign up with one of the different credit monitoring services available nowadays. These services will provide you with one or more credit score retrievals plus other features and benefits. Each service differs in some way from the others when it comes to features. You need to see for yourself what they have to offer to determine which one’s right for you. Here are what I consider the three best subscription services. Each one offers a different mix of services and pricing. But each one does offer some sort of free trial period so you can get a good sense of how the service would work for you without paying a dime.
Unfortunately, there is no real way to get just your credit score for free – unless of course you’ve been denied credit in which case the lender is obligated to provide you with your credit score information – but that’s too late to do you any good.
You can buy your credit score from the individual credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax) if you desire. You can also go to the Fair Issac Corp. website (myFICO.com) to purchase either the TransUnion or Equifax versions – Experian doesn’t work with myFICO. The cost is variable but as an example, myFICO was charging $19.95 for a credit score as of this writing. I think this is a little expensive for one-off credit scores, but if you want to go in that direction, here’s the contact information you need.
What About Free Credit Reports?
Credit reports are different animals than credit scores. Your credit report isn’t a score; it’s a compilation of information on how you pay your bills, if you’ve filed for bankruptcy, and other public reported information such as arrests or lawsuits. Unlike credit scores, credit reports are available for free because the Fair Credit Reporting Act (of 2011) mandates that each credit bureau supply one per year to anyone who asks.
But don’t be fooled by those TV commercials, there’s only one website authorized to handle these free credit report requests.
You can order 1 free credit report per year from each of the credit bureaus. That means 1 from Equifax, 1 from TransUnion, and 1 from Experian for a total of 3 reports per year – or 1 about every 4 months. For many people, this is enough to monitor their credit activity. If you want more up-to-the-minute monitoring, or even daily access, you should purchase a credit monitoring package (see above).
Does Checking Your Credit Score Affect Your Credit?
Your own credit score retrievals won’t negatively impact your credit. However, inquiries made by businesses with whom you’ve applied for credit will knock your score down a tiny bit. Several inquiries over a short period of time has long been a tell-tale sign of potential credit problems and the credit score calculations take that into account.