How to Get Your Credit Score and Credit Report for Free and Without Entering a Credit Card #

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Let me tell you a story. During lunch today our phone rang. My husband answered, had a conversation and hung up. He came back to the table saying that it was someone claiming to be from Bank of America  who wanted some personal information from him like the last four digits of his social security number.

Even though it smelled like a scam, he was curious about who the caller was and googled their phone number. The number was linked to a collection agency.

He started to get nervous. Not because we have any outstanding debt or any money in collections, we don’t. In fact, that’s what made him nervous. What if, in the most remote chance, that someone had stolen his identity, racked up debt and now they were coming after him, the real Marco Rocha.

That started us on a quest to pull his credit report and credit score to see if anything fishy was happening. It wasn’t. The call was likely a scam, like we suspected all along, but it got me to thinking about legitimate ways to pull your credit report and credit score free of charge.

How to Get a Legitimately Free Credit Report

You are entitled to a free, no obligation credit report from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus each year. AnnualCreditReport.com is the official site to help consumers to obtain their free annual credit report. They provide links right into the three bureaus and make it easy to get see the report.

What we opted to do today was look at my husband’s credit report just from one reporting agency. Since we can look at the report once per year, and there are three agencies with whom we can do that, then we’ll wait 4 months and look at the report from another agency. Four months later we can view a report from the third bureau and voila. We are using the three free annual credit reports to actually see what’s going on throughout the course of a year.

If you haven’t looked at your credit report lately, I’d encourage you to do so. If you notice errors on it, then you can initiate the correction process.

How to Get Your Credit Score for Free

Even though you are looking at a free credit report when you go through AnnualCreditReport.com, you aren’t given your credit score unless you pay. We were tempted to do that today, but you know that I have an aversion to paying for things :)

CreditKarma.com and CreditSesame.com to the Resuce

We discovered a wonderful resource that gives you your credit score free of charge. It’s called Credit Karma.com (edit 1/13/12: I have since discovered Credit Sesame, which is a nearly identical service to Credit Karma. It is also free). My husband and I checked both of our credit scores, which are provided by Trans Union  (mine is better than his) :) Plus, there are a lot of neat reports that show how your credit score compares to other Americans, plus simulators that help you understand how your financial decisions may impact your credit score. All in all, I thought it was very cool.

First, let me tell you that you don’t enter a credit card number. There are no hidden fees. There is no fine print that requires you to opt-out.

Credit Karma.com operates on a business model much like Mint.com. Your credit score is paid for via advertising revenue the site earns by providing targeted ads to you while you navigate their site. They may offer you a lower interest credit card or suggest something else that could benefit you financially. You are under no obligation to act on the advertising, but those advertisers subsidize the cost of the credit score.

Is CreditKarma.com Legit?

I always check into new companies I mention here at PocketYourDollars.com before I share them with you. I read the site’s privacy policy. I look for complaints and feedback on ComplaintsBoard.com and My3Cents.com. I check up on the parent company. I google for reviews. I sometimes check the better Business Bureau.

With CreditKarma.com I did all of that due diligence, since they are handling secure financial information. Everything came back with rave reviews. The site’s been mentioned in the media a plethora of times. It has an A rating from the BBB. It has gotten great reviews from across the blogosphere for more than 2 years (see reviews at Christian Finance’s review and Bargaineering for examples).

For those that still question the safety of inputting their info into CreditKarma.com, let me paste in a portion of Credit Karma’s FAQ:

Is this safe?

Credit Karma is committed to your safety. We follow the latest security precautions to protect your identity and your data. In fact we went a little bit over the top in an attempt to do everything possible to prevent unauthorized access to your information. Our site is registered with VeriSign and Hackersafe. Our office is protected by a 30lb beagle.

I’m a little nervous about entering my Social Security Number.

In order to retrieve your first credit score, we must use your social security number. We only use your SSN for this first score retrieval, and we do not store it in our database. After this one-time use, we will not need your SSN again and it will not be stored on any of our systems.

I have signed up with Credit Karma to get monthly updates on my credit score, but not enough time has passed (it’s only been 3 hours since I discovered the site) for me to have received one. I hope they are useful a useful resource as I monitor my credit worthiness.

How to Opt out of Pre-Screened Credit Card Offers

After sharing this post yesterday evening, some readers that have used Credit Karma for awhile shared their insights. One thing they said was that after creating a free Credit Karma account that they began to receive more credit card applications in the mail. But, you can opt out of many of those by following the instructions provided by the Federal Trade Commission.

Your turn: Have you used Credit Karma before? Thoughts? How do you monitor your credit history?

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Comments

  1. Jessica Nin says

    Thanks for the tip! I just got a letter yesterday about my name and social being in a compromised state database and need to check up on it routinely.

  2. Nancy K says

    I tried it and got my score. I'm still a little nervous so I truly appreciate your background checking into this site. Thanks for all you do!

  3. Joy says

    We're doing the three free credit reports divided through the year like you are. I am so glad to hear there is is free and safe place to check our credit scores. Thank you for your great work AND your due diligence!

  4. says

    Wow thank you for sharing this. I knew about the free credit report but I've always paid for my credit score. This is a great find. God bless!

  5. says

    I have been using Credit Karma for over a year (I found out about it from about.com, before I trusted any info). Aside from receiving more credit offers in the mail, which you probably could avoid (but make me feel more credit worthy!), there is nothing that could be classified as negative. It does email you reminders to update your score which is helpful because it graphs your score and each update is a point on the graph, i.e., the more you update it the better your sense of how your credit has fluctuated. Great suggestion as usual, Carrie!

  6. Jason says

    I've used Credit Karma for a couple of yrs now. I've had no negatives with it. I think its fun to play around with the website to see how it would affect my credit score. If you are still getting credit card offers in the mail check this out. I idid this yrs ago and I don't have nearly as many anymore:

    http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/c

  7. Therese S. says

    Like Chrissy and Jason, I too have been using Credit Karma for almost a year and I LOVE LOVE LOVE it. Very user-friendly website.

  8. Sarah Sonnier says

    Very nice addition to my new "free" budget lifestyle. With our cradit scores what they are (didn't know until now), I guess we're gonna need all the help we can get! LOL

  9. Melinda says

    Thanks for the information! I have been meaning to do this for a while now. I am going to use your idea to check every 4 months. I actually found a few small discrepencies on both my husbands and my own credit report and after a quick call to TransUnion and I was able to correct them all on both. Thanks again!

  10. Stacey Pederson says

    Excellent advice, thanks Carrie. As a mortgage loan officer for the last 10+ years, I have been advising my clients to check their free credit reports on annualcreditreport.com. I haven't heard of CreditKarma.com, and think it sounds like a great idea to get your credit score.

    A word of advice about credit scores: many of my borrowers have come to me "knowing" what their credit score is. There are many scoring models out there, and depending on which one(s) your bank or insurance company uses, the score may be quite a bit different than the score you receive from CreditKarma.com or any other source for your credit score. I agree that knowing what the ballpark of your credit score is will help a lot.

    In this mortgage environment, credit scores matter a great deal more than they did just a couple years ago.

    A few important points:

    * There is still a lot of outdated information on the internet. Make sure the research you do is current.

    * For some loan programs, the difference between a 740 score and a 739 score may be costly. For some other loan programs, there may be no difference between a 680 and 740. Know the rules.

    * Non-bank scoring models may be inaccurate. You may have an 800 score according to the scoring model you checked, but a 720 on your bank's scoring model.

    * Different industries may have different scoring models. Some insurance companies have credit scores that are a completely different set of numbers, such as a 1 or a 14 for your credit score.

    * Don't change anything on your credit without consulting your loan officer first if you are in the process of getting a mortgage loan. Things that may appear to help your score may actually be harmful. Common sense doesn't always apply to the credit scoring models. Ask a professional before you play with numbers that could be the difference of qualifying for a mortgage or not.

    Best of luck to everyone!

  11. Angie says

    Thank you for this information! I have been trying to get a free score for the past week so this came just in time. I really appreciate your research before posting information.

  12. Chrissy says

    Carrie,

    Just a reminder that it actually is costly to your credit score to have credit checks run. Mine went down in the past few months when I ran a credit check, then rented a new apartment and they did a credit check and finally got a new credit card, who also did a credit check.

    The amount of "requests for credit" can be costly.

  13. says

    Thanks for the tip! I've been getting my credit report from Annualcreditreport for several years now, but have never gotten my credit score since I had to pay! I'll head over now and get it!

  14. Jo-Jo says

    I've been wondering for quite awhile what my credit score was, but I was too afraid to look. lol According to creditkarma, I have excellent credit. You have no idea how much that made my day! After spending five years digging myself out of credit card debt I never imagined in my wildest dreams one day I'd have an excellent credit score. Thanks for making my day, Carrie!

  15. says

    Other Chrissy, lol–I used to post as "Chrissy" but there are too many! that only applies when you run a hard pull. A "soft" pull usually allows only you to see it–this is not the same as the pull you do when you apply for a credit card, etc. I am the "Chrissy" that has been using this awhile and when you do your free annual credit report it includes these hard pulls, the pulls that hurt your score. CreditKarma did not show up at all, but my Angels card application, etc. did.

    Long story short, these are soft pulls that don't affect your score.

  16. Jackie M. says

    I am a financial counselor and have never heard of Credit Karma or Credit Sesame….before I start using it I am wondering two primary questions-first, how do you know that the credit check is a soft pull and not a hard pull? Secondly, are the credit scores that are provided the FICO scores? As was mentioned in a previous comment, there are many scoring models out there but the primary one used by lenders is the FICO model so that is the one that I care to pay attention to and refer my clients to.

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