We’ve all seen the ads for free credit reports and scores. However, when we get to the website, we often find that there are strings attached and it doesn’t go as simply as planned. Eventually, many people give up and figure that they are all scams.
Well, you just may be able to find a credit score service that is actually as advertised – free. Let’s take a look at whether or not such services really are free, what you should look for, some of the services that are out there and which one is the best to go with.
Are These Services Really Free?
Many of you may wonder if using such sites is really free. The answer, surprisingly, is yes.
I’m used to there always being strings attached to anything that is labeled as “Free.” “Free for how long” is what I usually wonder. However, there really are free credit score sites out there.
So, how do they make their money?
Obviously, such websites are, at least in part, in it for the money. They wouldn’t take the time to operate their businesses without generating some sort of revenue.
These services generate their revenue through referrals to banks. Banks pay them for introducing new customers.
Think of such sites in the same regard as LendingTree.com. They match you with banks, banks pay them and you pay nothing.
Keep this in mind if you do use such sites to locate a lender, to find a cheaper financial institution or so on as they may have a financial interest in recommending a particular bank or banks to you.
What Should I Look for in a Free Credit Score Service?
Alright, you’re ready to get to business. Let’s explore some of the factors that you should consider when trying to find the right site for you.
Price: A company that advertises a free credit score service shouldn’t charge a dime – period. Beware of any sites that require a credit card to sign up. After all, why would they need your card if they have no intentions of ever charging you?
Credit Score: Make sure that the site actually offers a free credit score. Beyond that, look at the frequency of which you can get a free credit score. For example, go with a site that offers daily credit scores over monthly credit scores and so on.
Credit Report: A credit score is different than a credit report. Most sites that offer free credit scores do not also include a credit report. A report will show you items that affect your score, such as late payments, repossessions and other financial matters. The only site that I found that offers both a score and a report is Quizzle, but there may be others out there. Consider this feature a bonus if you can get it for free.
Financial Management: Some free credit score services offer financial management tools. Examples include calculators, software and some may even throw in some advice. These are good tools to have in addition to your credit score, as they can help you manage your day-to-day finances in addition to the snapshot that your score provides.
Credit Monitoring: Until recently, I was not aware of a site that offered free credit monitoring. A site that offers credit monitoring will do just that – monitor your credit. You’ll receive notifications of significant changes in your credit report, which can be a valuable tool in preventing identity theft and correcting errors on your report. Credit Karma is the only provider that I know of that offers this service for free.
Can You Look At The (Truly) Free Credit Score Services?
In this comparison we will take a look at four of the most popular (and truly free) credit score services.
1. Credit Karma
Credit Karma is a safe bet to go with if you are in the market for a free credit score service. It offers savings options for your financial life, including tips on home loans, auto loans, credit cards and a variety of other items.
Credit Karma also offers free tools and calculators to help you manage your finances. These tools can help you simulate your financial life to determine how your decisions will affect your credit score. I’ll give you a hint – if you are about to have three cars repossessed, your credit score will plunge!
An important feature that Credit Karma offers is daily access to your three credit scores. I have yet to find another site that offers free access to those scores on a daily basis.
Also, Credit Karma offers a credit report card. Note that this is not an actual credit report, but their interpretation of your credit report. They assign a letter grade to your credit performance, making it a bit easier to understand than a simple number. After all, which is an easier indicator of your credit to understand – a score of 760 or a grade of A? As almost everyone is familiar with letter grades, it is a simplistic representation of your credit that actually makes sense. Imagine that!
Another great feature that Credit Karma offers that the rest don’t is free credit monitoring. This will be explored in greater depth later in this piece.
2. Credit Sesame
Like Credit Karma, Credit Sesame offers a free credit score. However, it does so monthly, not daily.
You won’t have access to a credit report with this service, meaning that you won’t be able to view specific credit items. For example, if a creditor has claimed that your payment is over 90 days late, you won’t find out by using Credit Sesame.
Credit Sesame offers financial tools to assist your financial decisions. They offer bank-level financial analysis software that analyzes your financial situation to match you up with potential lenders. When used properly, this will help you save time by eliminating banks that wouldn’t be interested in lending to you.
Mint does not offer a free credit score or report. If you were specifically looking for either of those, you may wish to skip over this company.
Mint tailors it’s services toward financial management. It offers advice and options for saving money and, like the other sites, attempts to match you up with financial institutions that you may be interested in.
A key feature that Mint offers is the ability to track investments. It helps manage your fees and keeps you abreast of what is happening in the market. I have not seen another site of this nature that offers such a feature, so this site could be of use for those who invest.
From a budgeting and overall financial management standpoint, Mint offers many benefits. However, with the mentioned lack of a credit score and report, I recommend that you steer clear of this site unless you use it in combination with one of the other sites.
Quizzle is the only website that offers both a free credit score and report. It does so on a monthly basis. If those are your primary concerns, then this is the site for you.
Quizzle also offers a home value estimator. As you may imagine, it gives the estimated value of your home. It also gives other information, including:
- Home appreciation
- Sales record
- Recently sold and foreclosed homes in your area
Additionally, the site offers tips of how to improve your financial life. Examples include home loan recommendations and budgeting tips.
Comparison of Free Credit Score Services
So, we’ve seen an overview of a few of the companies that offer free credit score services. Now, let’s take a side-by-side look at how each performs in some important categories:
|Service||Free Credit Score?||Free Credit Report?||Free Financial Advice?||Free Credit Monitoring?||E-mail Alerts?|
I give the edge to Credit Karma because of it’s credit monitoring service. As mentioned, it monitors your credit for free – something that most companies (including Quizzle) charge a fee for.
With Credit Karma’s credit monitoring, they’ll track your credit report on a daily basis. You’ll receive an alert if there are any significant changes on your report.
Effectively, Credit Karma will act as a canary in your financial coal mine. It will alert you when a new account has been opened in your name, when a creditor has filed a derogatory report and monitors for other relevant situations. It offers an indirect means of identity theft protection, as you can spot any problems early on and minimize the damage.
When compared to sites that charge a fee for credit score services, the only noticeable difference is that Credit Karma does not offer identity theft coverage. So, if someone opens up a credit card and maxes it out before you read your Credit Karma alert, you’ll be left to clean up the mess. Otherwise, their service is right on par with the paid versions that are out there.
So, there really are free credit score services out there. Of course, someone pays for it, but it is not you.
Just be sure that you read the fine print on each site so that you don’t get caught paying for something that you don’t want. In general, just don’t give them a credit card number and you should do just fine. With this in mind, feel free to explore the mentioned sites and others out there. Find the one that works for you and you’ll be able to get a free credit score and other perks without a huge hassle.