After the recent Equifax data breach, it’s time to revisit monitoring your credit report! After all, at last count we do manage over 65 credit cards and over $1,000,000 in credit lines!
Over time, we’ve covered how to get your free credit report, get your free credit scores and get free credit monitoring. Let’s review your options to keeping tabs on your credit without spending a fortune.
Guide to Free Credit Scores, Reports and Monitoring
I always like to know exactly what our credit reports and scores are before I apply for a new credit card, mortgage or any other credit-related transaction. I’ve found that it’s much easier to get something fixed before applying for a new loan, instead of trying to get it fixed while the bank is involved.
Just before I submit the applications, (usually before a credit card application spree) I like to pull our credit report to make sure that everything is in order.
How to Get a Free Credit Report
There are three major credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian). The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each company to give you a free credit report every 12 months. Details on the program are outlined in How to Get a Free Credit Report.
You can space these out to get one free report every four months, rotating through the different bureaus. The three reports will be very similar, but some accounts may only be reported to one or two of the agencies. To request your your credit report online visit annualcreditreport.com.
Free Credit Scores
If you need your credit score or you’ve already used your annual option for a credit report, you can use:
Credit Sesame. You can obtain your free credit reports and scores from Credit Sesame. Your Credit Sesame credit score is updated every month. The score is based on your Transunion credit report. Credit Sesame offers a free credit monitoring service. The service works well and notified me of a late payment mixup. More details on the service are highlighted in Credit Sesame Free Credit Score.
Credit Karma. You can also use Credit Karma. Credit Karma uses the TransUnion and Equifax credit reports to calculate the score. You can request a new score from Credit Karma every 7 days. They also offer free credit monitoring daily. For more see Free Credit Score and Credit Monitoring from Credit Karma.
Free Credit Scores from Credit Card Companies
I’m always on the lookout for another free way to get a copy of our credit report and credit scores. When I need to request a score more frequently than I can with Credit Sesame or Credit Karma, I use the scores provided by our credit cards. For example, you can get Free Credit Reports and Scores from American Express. You can get free credit scores with different credit cards including:
- American Express
- Bank of America
Credit Scoring Models. There are thousands of different score models, each based on their own proprietary model. I usually only want to make sure our scores are loan or credit approval worthy, so I’m only interested in the free versions, which are affectionately nicknamed fako scores! To this day, I’ve never had a problem relying on the fako scores instead of the fico scores.
Credit Scoring. Here are more in-depth details on credit scoring:
How Much Does a Late Payment Affect My Credit Score?. Data point and example of a late payment, the impact and the removal.
Why You Shouldn’t Care That Much About Your Credit Score. Credit score management and why you shouldn’t care about it constantly. Also included, when you should care about it!
Will Opening Up a Bank or Credit Account to Earn Bonuses Hurt My Credit Score? Things to be aware of if you are going to open new accounts to earn a bonus.
Fixing and Improving Your Credit Score
If you are seeing adverse consequences from your credit score and you need to improve your credit score, here are some helpful tips:
How to Fix Errors On Your Credit Report. How to find errors on your credit report and fix them. You’ll need to dispute errors with the credit reporting agencies.
5 Simple Ways to Improve Your Credit Score. If you are working on improving a weak credit score or a troubled credit report, you can’t fix it overnight. It takes patience and a lot of hard work.
How to Improve Your Credit Score. Tips on how to improve your credit score.
If there are any errors I determine how substantial a negative impact would be. I don’t fix all the errors. For example, I will dispute a late fee, I would probably skip a credit limit that is off by $200. My experiences with the dispute process are positive so far.
Monitoring Your Credit Report
I mentioned that I use Credit Sesame to monitor our credit report. I don’t spend a lot of time reviewing my credit report because it takes time!
Some of the quick processes I have used over time to keep an eye on our credit report include checking your credit report at the following times:
- Once per year ordering credit reports for free.
- Using credit monitoring when planning to apply for a bunch of cards to track the impact on credit scores.
- Anytime a company orders our credit. Review a copy of the credit score or report they send.
- If I receive an adverse action letter for any reason, I also request a copy of my report.
Reviewing Your Credit Reports
Once you receive your credit report quickly verify the following:
- No public records (bankruptcy filings, court judgments and tax liens).
- No delinquent or derogatory accounts.
- No accounts assigned to collections.
- No late payments or past due accounts.
- All names and addresses are reasonable.
If I see any of these, it would be a big red flag (since we don’t have any) and I would work on disputing the item immediately.
Later, when I have a little more time, I will check the following:
- Count the number of open accounts.
- Look for any new accounts by date since my last opened card.
- Review total balances to match our current balances.
- Check total credit limits.
Based on the recent Equifax breach, you may want to keep a closer eye on your credit. Here are some of the topics you may be interested in:
- How to Lock Down Your Money After the Equifax Breach
- How to Sue Equifax
- Equifax data breach: 5 things to expect when you freeze your credit
- How To Protect Yourself From the Equifax Data Breach