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Verdict: SmartCredit, a service managed by ConsumerDirect, is an interesting idea with little value to people looking to manage their credit and get the best rates on loans.
In two words: steer clear.
The concept is sound. The company’s goal is to simplify credit management by providing an easy-to-read credit report and various services designed to help you raise your credit score.
Unfortunately, since lenders don’t use the credit reports or credit scores generated by SmartCredit.com, you still need to check your FICO score and your credit reports from all three major credit reporting agencies at least once a year and before you apply for a major loan like a mortgage. We wouldn’t recommend paying money for SmartCredit.com’s service, which is higher than the average pricing for credit monitoring services.
Overview: SmartCredit.com makes big claims. It claims to provide “all your credit scores,” and an “easy-to-read credit report.” But, according to the website, only 36,000 lenders currently look at the Smart Credit credit report model.
What is this service really offering? For $19.95 month ($29.95 for Premium Membership) you’ll get access to a bunch of proprietary credit scores that the company admits are not to be confused with FICO scores, Vantage scores, Empirica scores, Beacon scores or any scores issued by the major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, TransUnion or Experian.
The website also states, “All of our Scores are not to be used to determine or grant credit in any manner. They are for educational purposes only.”
At least this company gets points for “truth in advertising,” because this information is clearly stated and easy to find on the FAQ page.
But it does leaves me scratching my head as to why anyone would pay so much per month to see credit scores that do not reflect the scores used by lenders to assess your creditworthiness.
Let’s take a look at what else this service offers.
Score-builder: A step-by-step program to a better credit score. This sounds a lot like other company’s credit score simulators. You can get one free at CreditKarma. Granted, CreditKarma doesn’t use your FICO score, either, but it’s free and it will help you get a good idea of your creditworthiness.
Daily Smart Savings: Pre-qualified credit card offers that will save you money. Find this information free at Mint.com or CreditKarma.com. Or, if you already know your credit score, browse the reviews here at CreditShout.com to pick the best credit card offer for you.
SMART Actions: With the push of one button, you can report an error on your credit report to the creditor involved, who will then report it to all three credit reporting bureaus IF the creditor agrees with the error and if your creditor reports to those bureaus. Basic membership in Smart Credit permits 5 SMART Actions per month, while the Premium membership offers unlimited SMART Actions.
This is something you can do yourself, for free, with a simple letter or by filling out the dispute forms at the Equifax, TransUnion and Experian websites.
And, we should remind you, you’d first need to see your credit reports from the major reporting agencies before you spot errors to report — which means using a different credit monitoring service or visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.
Pricing: The pricing for this service seems just about as confusing as the multiple credit scores (which are used by only 36,000 lenders, remember, and are not FICO scores).
You can get a free 5-day trial. Simple enough.
Or you can pay a basic membership fee of $19.95, with limited SMART Actions and monthly credit reports and scores.
The Premium Membership is $29.95 and includes “unlimited everything,” according to the website.
Or you can take a leap of faith and go for the Promotional Pricing Plan. This carries an upfront fee of between $79.95 and $119.95, and offers the same features and benefits as the Premium Membership. There is no free trial available, but you do get a 30-day satisfaction guarantee for a full refund with this plan, which is not available with the other plans.
Steer Clear of This New Scoring Model: This would all be great if lenders actually used the SmartCredit.com scoring model. But for now, stick with credit monitoring agencies that at least provide the actual credit reports issued by Experian, TransUnion and Equifax and used by lenders when you apply for a loan.