Personally, I've been using CreditKarma.com to monitor my (and Mrs. Ourtipsandtricks') credit for the past few years and recommend you do the same. The benefits are:
- It's completely free. You never provide credit card information.
- It pulls all your financial information that impact your credit (e.g., mortgages, student loans, credit cards, etc.). Signing up for and using the site does not affect your credit score. All pulls are soft inquiries.*
- It regularly refreshes your credit information about once a week, notifying you of changes.
- It gives you a free estimated credit score.
- It's educational and will provide you a greater understanding of credit score calculations and what you can do to increase your credit score.
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How I Use Credit Karma
I check my Credit Karma account about once a week to do the following:
- Fraud Monitoring: The site will display any new applications for credit under my name, which will alert me to any fraudulent credit applications. Thankfully, I've never experienced this.
- Monitor Credit Score: The site provides two different types of free credit scores provided by Transunion, which give me a good idea of my overall credit score. It also provides an "auto insurance" and "home insurance" score, but, to me, they are worthless. Just this month, it alerted me that a two-year-old hard credit inquiry was removed from my credit report. The removal of this hard inquiry lowered the number of hard inquiries on my credit report (obviously), slightly increased my credit score, and provided a tempting opening to apply for a new credit card.
- Simulate Credit Score: The site offers a handy "Credit Score Simulator" that calculates how financial activities will impact my credit score. For instance, before I apply for a new credit card, I'll simulate that activity to determine how my credit score will be affected.
- Monitor My Accounts: The site displays all of my accounts and balances in one place, allowing me to keep an eye on them. You can also use the site to track all of your financial transactions (e.g., credit card charges and payments, checks, transfers, etc.), but I personally prefer Mint.com for that.
Finally, over the years, Credit Karma has made me smarter about credit scores and reporting, which in turn has allowed me to maintain a very high credit score and access to good loan rates and credit card offers. More importantly perhaps, this education has increased my ability to provide knowledgeable, unsolicited advice to friends, family, and you.
* more information on soft vs. hard inquiries here
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