This post was contributed by William of Doctor of Credit. Please enjoy!
A 2013 study commissioned by the FTC found that one in four people have errors on their credit report which could affect their credit score. If you’re credit score is lower than it should be this can affect your: chances of getting a loan (or the terms of that loan, such as the interest rate), the price of their insurance premiums and their ability to find employment or somewhere to live. According to the Bureau of Justice statistics 7% of Americans over the age of 16 were victims of identity theft in 2012.
Because of both of statistics it’s extremely important that you keep an eye on your credit reports. Thankfully there are a number of ways to do so for free. All of the methods we list below have been verified to work and don’t require any dodgy free trials, in fact there is no credit card necessary for any of these sites.
Annualcreditreport.com was set up after the FACT amendment was added to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) which required the three nationwide credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian & TransUnion) to provide consumers access to their credit report once per year.
This is the only place you can get free full credit reports, you should be checking these reports for inaccuracies or errors at least once per year. The downside in getting your reports from here is that the credit bureaus have a period of 45 days to respond to any disputes you make (if you purchase your credit report they only have 30 days to respond to your dispute). The other downside is that there is no ongoing credit monitoring, this means if you access your credit report in January and then your identity is stolen in February you might not notice until you receive your credit report the following January.
- Free access to all three of your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, TransUnion
- Government endorsed site, required to be operational under the FCRA FACT amendment
- No ongoing credit monitoring is provided
- Only able to be accessed once per year
- Credit bureaus have a period of 45 days to respond to your disputes of inaccuracies or incorrect information (compared to 30 days when the information is obtained from a purchased credit report)
Credit Karma was set up in 2007 and offers consumers free access to their credit scores (TransUnion VantageScore V3 & TransUnion TransRisk Credit Score). They make their money by recommending other financial products to consumers (which they receive a commission on). They also offer basic credit monitoring which will alert consumers whenever a major change is made to their credit (e.g a new credit card is opened or they miss a payment on one of their loans), which can be useful when monitoring for identity theft.
They also provide a bunch of credit tools which can help improve your education on how credit scores work and what can be done to improve yours. Although it’s important to note that this information is based on the scoring models they use and not the FICO score which is used in 91% of lending decisions.
- Credit monitoring on your TransUnion credit report
- Free credit scores (TransUnion VantageScore V3 & TransUnion TransRisk Credit Score)
- Suite of credit tools that can be used to help improve your credit education
- Recently settled charges with the FTC due to poor security on their mobile application
- Only provides data based on the TransUnion credit bureau
Credit Sesame was launched in 2010 and is a similar concept to Credit Karma, instead of providing consumers with credit data based on the TransUnion credit bureau they provide data on Experian. They also provide consumers access to their Experian National Equivalency Score for free. The credit monitoring they provide will notify consumers of major credit changes (e.g new account openings and late payments).
In addition, they recently announced that consumers that opted in would have $50,000 in free identity theft insurance and access to credit restoration experts in the event that their credit was stolen.
- Credit monitoring on Experian credit reports
- Free credit score (Experian National Equivalency Score)
- $50,000 in free identity theft insurance
- Only provide data on Experian credit reports
- Lacking robust credit tools and educational resources
- A lot of upselling to consumers to purchase additional credit reports
Quizzle was founded in 2008 and provides services similar to both Credit Karma & Sesame, the key difference is that their data is powered by the Equifax credit report. They also give consumers access to their full Equifax credit report (whereas Sesame & Karma provide partial reports) every six months.
Between these six months intervals consumers will also be notified of major credit changes such as new accounts being opened or when a late payment is made.
- Free credit score (Equifax VantageScore V3) every six months
- Free full Equifax credit report every six months
- Credit monitoring on Equifax credit reports
- Only provides data on Equifax
- No real credit tools or education section
- A lot of upselling to consumers to change their existing loans to Quicken loans (who own Quizzle)
Credit.com was started back in 1995, but only recently started offering full credit scores (before they only offered ranges). Their credit data is provided by Experian (same as Credit Sesame) and they offer two different scores (Experian National Equivalency Score & Experian VantageScore).
- Free credit scores (Experian VantageScore V3 & Experian National Equivalency Score)
- Free credit monitoring on Experian credit reports
- Doesn’t really have a point of difference to the other three free credit monitoring sites
It’s not necessary to sign up for all of these sites, but doing so won’t cost you a dime. At the very least you should be checking each of your credit reports for errors every twelve months through annualcreditreport.com. We suggest staggering it, for example:
- Get your TransUnion credit report in January
- Get your Experian credit report in May
- Get your Equifax credit report in August
If you find incorrect or inaccurate information on one report then it likely appears on the others as well. When you dispute it with the credit bureau and whoever sent the incorrect information, they should notify all credit bureaus they reported it to.
The advantage of signing up to the other free sites is that you can be almost instantly notified whenever major credit changes happen. This means that if you’re identity is stolen and used to open new accounts, you’ll know sooner and as such you can close the new accounts and freeze your credit reports before any real damage is done. They also give you a few extra benefits such as the free identity theft insurance and credit scores.
William Charles is the main contributor at Doctor of Credit. He covers all consumer credit topics and regularly updates his in depth reviews on credit monitoring websites, such as his Credit Sesame review which now reflects the fact they offer free identity theft insurance. He’ll be answering any questions you have about any of the sites mentioned or other tactics for preventing yourself against identity theft in the comments section below.
Image via LendingMemo.com