Many websites charge you to find out your credit score, but what many consumers don't know is that you can get your credit score for free. By federal law, you are entitled to receive one free credit report per year from each of the credit bureaus. The three agencies that track your credit are Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. Instead of contacting each of these agencies separately, you can obtain your credit reports from all three using a website called AnnualCreditReport.com. You need not be concerned about using this site (as I first was), since it is a government website and 100% legitimate. I recommend getting your credit reports each year. In order to remember when to request them, pick a certain month of the year when you will always be checking your credit reports. I like to select January of each new year, as that is the perfect time to review your credit and make financial decisions for the upcoming year.
Another option is to join a website called Credit Karma. You've probably seen commercials for this service on TV, such as the one below:
The benefit of using Credit Karma is that it is 100% free, and gives you an updated credit score each month. In this way, you are able to monitor your score on an ongoing basis, instead of just once per year. The disadvantage to using just Credit Karma, however, is that it only shows you credits scores from 2 out of 3 agencies. This means once a year, you'll still have to get your annual credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com in order to make sure your credit is good with all 3 agencies. Even if you sign up for Credit Karma, it's important to remember to check your score with all 3 bureaus. This is because many bureaus report erroneous information from time to time. Just because your credit looks good on 2 out of 3 bureuas, you should therefore not take anything for granted.
After you join Credit Karma, I recommend logging in at the beginning to check your credit every month. This may seem like a hassle, but monitoring your credit score is the easiest way to protect yourself from credit fraud and identity theft. As cumbersome as it may be for you, you must remain vigilent and proactive about protecting your credit. If you don't believe me, just go online and read the many horror stories of people who have been victims of identity theft. The damage that is done by such scams can last many years and will require hundreds of hours on your part and lots of money to repair. For more on identity theft and fraud, I recommend reading this artice on the Department of Justice website.
Is it really worth the trouble to keep such a close eye on your credit? The answer is a resounding yes. Remember you need a good credit not for just getting mortgage loans. If you want to live in a decent apartment, chances are good that the landlord will check your credit. This is true for purchasing cars as well. In some cases, employers will run your credit as well before deciding whether or not to hire you.
In fact, along with your social security number, I would say that your credit score is among the most important numbers in your life. Thankfully, the Internet makes it easy for us to stay on top of our credit. So don't be lazy and take advantage of your annual free credit reports from all 3 agencies, and sign up for an account with Credit Karma as well. Don't put aside these important step, and do these things right now, if you have not done so already.