Your credit report can be your best reference or your harshest critic. It is a key factor in whether lenders will work with you and what interest rates you receive if you are looking to get a mortgage, buy a car or seek a line of credit for other purposes. In addition, your credit score can also affect things such as your ability to rent an apartment or even get hired at a new job.
For these reasons, it is important to check your credit report at least annually to ensure that everything in it is correct. In this era of potential credit reporting errors as well as the risk of identity theft, it is even better to track your credit reports and scores more often than just once a year. The best credit monitoring services offer quarterly or even monthly updates so you can spot credit reporting errors.
Do not keep brushing aside those thoughts of "I really need to get my credit report." It's best to just do it.
It is easy to keep track of your credit score and credit report information online if you use a reputable credit monitoring service. Identity Guard, Identity Force and Privacy Guard are the best credit report services to access your credit report and credit scores, and to regularly track your credit.
By checking your annual credit report and score, you can find errors, catch ongoing identity theft and stop fraud. If something on your credit history is inaccurate, you can correct the information so that it will not affect your score when you are ready to make a major credit purchase or look for a new place to live.
Keeping an eye on your credit score and credit report can help you save money as well. Lenders look for a certain level of creditworthiness to determine whether lending money to you is worth the risk. The higher your credit score, the better terms and interest rates you will receive, which means lower monthly payments and far less interest paid over the life of your loans.
Although credit report services do not repair your credit or dispute errors for you, the best credit report companies can provide you with the information you need to improve your credit yourself.
Additionally, you can use a credit monitoring service to notify you when your credit score or something on your credit report changes. This can provide you with even more assurance that your credit score and report will be accurate when lenders look at it. Our credit monitoring service reviews can help you decide which service has the monitoring tools you want.
A common misconception is that conducting a credit check or regularly monitoring your credit report and score will hurt your credit. This is not true. When you check your credit score or report, the credit bureaus consider it a so-called "soft" inquiry that will not harm your credit score. However, if a lender looks at your credit score or credit report, usually because you are seeking credit, this is a considered a "hard" inquiry and will be reflected in your credit score.
For more information about your credit and finances, see our articles about credit report services.
Not all credit report services provide the same basic features and additional services. These features are divided into categories: which bureaus the reports are from and how often they are updated, the credit monitoring options you receive, any additional services, and help and support.
Reports Included With Service
When you borrow money, finish paying back a loan or make other financial transactions, that information should appear on your credit report once your creditors submit it to the credit reporting bureaus. However, a creditor is not required to report to all three bureaus. Therefore, it is wise to look at your credit reports from all three agencies so that you can make sure that all three include correct, up-to-date information. It also is useful to know the scoring model used in calculating your credit score.
Your credit report usually comes with a credit score, which is what helps lenders determine how much of a financial risk you pose. The Fair Isaac Corporation score, or FICO, is the most widely used scoring method. It draws on data from all three agencies' credit reports and uses an algorithm to determine your score. However, the FICO score is not the only scoring model. Vantage and proprietary scores exist as well.
Although the factors may be similar, the score can mean different things depending on the type of model used because the scales are different. A FICO score ranges between 300 and 850, while a Vantage score is between 501 and 990. A 799 score in the FICO model is terrific, but a 799 score in the Vantage model is average, which means you would end up with a higher interest rate. When you look at your credit score, be sure that you know which model has generated that score.
Credit Monitoring Features
When you pay for a service to track your credit, it helps to know what that company is watching for. The best services monitor all three credit reporting bureaus. It is also useful to get alerts in the event that someone is misusing your credit, and it helps to have multiple ways of getting those alerts.
Credit monitoring is a separate feature from obtaining a credit report. Credit monitoring services provide you with alerts when something on your report or your score changes. This does not mean you can view your credit reports and your score an unlimited number of times, though. Typically, the most frequently that alerts come is once a month. Using a credit monitoring service does not ding your credit score.
Many of the best credit monitoring services provide identity theft insurance. They also help if your identity is stolen, if you want to dispute incorrect data, or if you need protection in the event of a lost wallet.
Help & Support
While keeping an eye on your credit, there is always a chance that something could go wrong or that you might misunderstand something. It is great to have as much help and assistance as you can from your monitoring service, and to be able to reach it via phone, email or live chat. You also might benefit from studying the FAQs, blogs and other educational materials on the company's website.
Finding a comprehensive credit report with the type of score you need can be difficult. Whether you are trying to decide which credit report is best, trying to get a credit report, or searching for a credit monitoring service, you will find the information you need here.