Get Familiar With Your Credit Score
In order to attain and maintain a financially healthy lifestyle, there are a number of necessary steps to take – eliminating bad debt, saving for the future and creating emergency funds are among these steps. To reach this goal, certain habits will need to be formed (or broken) and financially responsible behavior will need to be practiced in every aspect of life.
One such important practice is monitoring and becoming familiar with your personal credit report and score. As far as an individual’s financial profile goes, the credit report and score are the most crucial elements. Depending on the state of your credit, it can make or break your ability to get a loan, a mortgage and even a job.
Not only is monitoring your credit score a good habit for a financially healthy individual but it can be done without consequence, meaning that your credit score is never at risk of being hurt by continual check-ups. This is because a personal audit is recognized as a ‘soft inquiry’. When your credit is investigated by a credit or loan company, however, your credit score is susceptible to interim damage because the audit is seen as a ‘hard inquiry’. By keeping tabs on your credit score through soft inquiries, you will be able to manage and prepare accordingly for any scenarios where a hard inquiry might occur.
Annualcreditreport.com is an online service that provides consumers with a free credit report once every 12 months from each of the nationwide consumer credit reporting companies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. While this provides a convenient service, it is limited by the fact that your credit report can only be accessed once every year and it also does not provide your credit score, which is an extremely important number for a financially healthy individual to keep track of.
Fortunately, there are services available that offer free credit reports and provide you with your credit score as well, without restricting you to a once-a-year update.
Among the free credit score services available, these are the most highly recommended:
About the Company
Committed to providing an all-encompassing finance and credit experience, Credit Karma is a gratis service that offers consumers a wide range of informational tools and resources aimed at capacitating individuals to assume a more operative and informed role in their financial affairs.
Unlike many services, Credit Karma does not ask for any personal credit card information so consumers can rest assured that they are truly getting unlimited use of the free service, as advertised. In fact, customers are encouraged to visit the site as frequently as desired to view their free credit score (from credit bureau Transunion) and to make full use of the various site features.
What it Does
Once you create your account with Credit Karma, its financial experts provide debt management consultations and advice customized to your personal finances. The professional guidance of these experts actually help customers save money by helping choose the most optimal recourse for auto loans, credit cards and mortgages etc.
In addition to providing consumers with a free credit score, this site also offers useful and engaging features such as tools, calculators and simulators that allow individuals to track their credit score and debt, as well as inform them of how to foresee and manage any alterations in their score. Customers can also view example credit reports which are used as helpful reference points for consumers to pinpoint elements of their own report that are affecting its score.
Perhaps the highlight of the entire site is its interactive Advice and Learning section. This section features a Credit Advice forum where customers can ask all their credit-related questions and get response and feedback from other members of the Credit Karma community. Additionally, this section links you to the Credit Karma blog, which was created to serve as a one-stop shop for the most comprehensive and up-to-date scoop on finance and credit. Daily posts cover a range of topics, from reviews of credit card rewards systems to how-to guides on savvy spending and saving, answering all of your questions in a way that is informative and easy to understand.
The feedback by members of the Credit Karma community has been very positive and the service has also received media recognition by respected institutions in the financial world, such as MSNBC, Smart Money, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and CNN.
Visitors to the site will be greeted with a clean and well-organized home page that succinctly advertises the services offered with multiple links that access the sign-up page for those who are ready to get started immediately. For those who want a more in depth view of what Credit Karma offers, they can explore the websites sub-pages, categorized as My Credit, My Savings, Credit Cards, Reviews, and Advice and Learning. These splashy and colorful pages offer enough numbers, diagrams, tools and stats to answer even the most thorough and discerning individuals’ questions. For those who aren’t as web savvy as most of Generation Y, the details and diagrams might be a turn off as they can be overwhelming and difficult to navigate. Case in point: the link to the Credit Karma blog is not displayed on the homepage and instead gets lost on a sub-page (Advice and Learning), so consumers who don’t carefully explore the site might not even realize that the company has a blog.
About the Company
Credit Sesame is another popular service that has received praise in various media outlets — ConsumerReports.org, CNNMoney.com, More Magazine — for encouraging consumers to assume a more hands-on role in their finances. Based on the understanding that financial health begins with an individual asserting control over their debt and credit situation, Credit Sesame allows consumers to monitor and manage all of their finance matters from one, user-friendly platform.
What it Does
In addition to offering a free monthly credit score (from credit bureau Experian), Credit Sesame gives personalized recommendations for savings on loan, mortgage and refinance offers based off of an individual’s financial profile.
The highly-customized financial counseling is generated by Credit Sesames advanced patent-pending analytics, which assesses and produces results based on each users unique profile. Consumers can expect results such as a personalized mortgage, which is selected as the best match to their individual budget and financial goals, and for which they already pre-qualify.
Setting Credit Sesame apart from its competitor is the recent addition of a new feature on the company site, called The Credit Sesame Badge program. This program certifies an individual’s financial responsibility by awarding different levels of badges—based on credit scores and debt management—which can be displayed on personal websites and social media profiles. By endorsing a consumers financial accountability and advertising their respectable credit, the badge system will allow the individual to shine brighter than the competition at times when it matters most—whether they are looking to rent a home, seeking new employment, or conducting personal or business relations online. This useful new feature, like all the others on Credit Sesame, is completely free.
The Credit Sesame blog is also a valuable resource for members, with useful posts that are categorized by section: Debt Management, Improving Credit, Mortgage, Real Estate, Savings, Stats, and Updates. You can subscribe to the blog or follow them on Facebook and Twitter to stay totally up-to-date on the latest tips and tricks in the world of credit and personal finance.
The simple layout of Credit Sesame makes it relatively easy to navigate and an overall user-friendly site. The convenient link to their blog (located in the upper right corner of the home page) is much easier to access than Credit Karmas blog link, which is hidden in a sub page. The website explains in easy-to-understand terms how the service works and remains informative without overloading the potential customer with numbers and details that might be confusing.