Best Credit Score Sites: How to Effectively Monitor Your Credit Score
There are so many reasons why we should monitor our credit — the rise of identity theft incidents makes it practically a requirement. You also should know if you need to make improvements to your score before making a significant purchase like a car or a house. Below are eight options to choose the best credit score site for you. Some are free. Some charge a monthly subscription fee. And some start free, then impose the cost.
How to Choose the Right Credit Score Monitoring Service?
It's important to understand that not all monitoring services are made equal. Many of the open score providers offer informational (fake) scores, commonly known as “FAKO” scores. They're not the actual FICO scores that lenders use.
It doesn't mean that the informational scores have no value. They often closely parallel FICO scores, and they can undoubtedly alert you when credit issues arise. They can work if you want only to monitor your credit scores loosely. But if you're going to track your actual scores and improve them where necessary, a paid service might be the better strategy.
There are all kinds of credit monitoring services available, some free and some paid. Free credit scores are now widely available. And some financial institutions even provide your score automatically on monthly statements. If you're looking to monitor your credit score regularly, this may be the way to go. The scores provided will be free. And you won't need to add an extra vendor to your already busy life.
Here are eight ways to do that. They aren't ranked, so the order doesn't represent the quality of the service.
myFICO: Most Comprehensive Credit Monitoring ServicemyFICO offers what is probably the most comprehensive credit monitoring service available. Its plans allow you to get instant access to your credit report, plus regular updates. They also monitor credit events and changes in your FICO score(s), as well as to detect identity threats.
myFICO offers two plans:
- Single Bureau Reports. At $19.95 per month, this plan provides you with instant and monthly access to your Experian credit report and FICO scores, including FICO Scores 8 and 9. The credit reports and scores are updated every month.
- Three-Bureau Report. For an extra $10 — $29.95 per month — you can get instant and quarterly access to the most widely used FICO scores, as well as a new three-bureau credit report.
Both plans detect threats to your personal information and can work to restore your identity with expert identity theft features.
One of the significant advantages of the myFICO plans is that they provide you with a wide variety of FICO scores. There are different scores used in different lending capacities, such as mortgages, car loans, and credit cards. myFICO provides you with access to all of those scores. For example, the three-bureau report gives you access to up to 28 different FICO scores.
The disadvantage with the three-bureau report is that it provides updates on only a quarterly basis. But for most consumers, this would be sufficient to monitor their credit regularly, mainly since it includes the threat detection feature.
Experian Boost: Helpful For Limited or No Credit History Customers
On top of this service, which is particularly helpful to folks with a limited or no credit history, you can also use Experian Boost to track your FICO score. The service will send you an alert when there's a change to your score. But you can also check in to see how your credit is improving.
Like most of the other free services on this list, Experian Boost will make suggestions as to credit cards that fit your credit profile.
Credit Karma: Free Service & SimulatorCredit Karma has become almost synonymous with free credit scores. I suspect that's because the service truly is free. You don't even need to put a credit card on file, which is a common requirement among “free” credit score providers. Credit Karma earns its revenue from the offers it displays from various service providers. If you click through to one of those providers from Credit Karma and subscribe to its service, Credit Karma collects.
Credit Karma provides two-bureau credit score monitoring. Credit scores are provided through TransUnion and Equifax. They use VantageScore 3.0. This is not your FICO score and not used by lenders. The difference is that FICO scores are commonly used by lenders, while Vantage scores are informational scores for consumers only. They roughly parallel FICO scores, but it's not an exact match.
Still, not only will you get the credit scores, but you'll also get the factors that contribute to your score. That will include your payment history, credit utilization ratio, length of credit history, new credit, and the types of credit you have.
Credit Karma also offers a credit score simulator. It will allow you to run different scenarios and see how they impact your scores going forward. It's a good low-pressure way to monitor your credit scores on an ongoing basis and without any expense.
Mint.com – Free Informational Credit Scores
We already like Mint for its budgeting services, but did you know this personal finance powerhouse also provides credit score monitoring?
Mint has joined the ranks of Credit Karma and Credit Sesame by offering free informational credit scores to its users, courtesy of Equifax. All of Mint's services are free to use.
TransUnion: Free and Paid Credit Monitoring Services
TransUnion offers both free and paid credit monitoring services. You can get the free service through the TransUnion Online Credit Score Simulator. Not only does it provide you with your free credit score, but it also enables you to run scenarios — simulations — to see where your credit score will be if. As in, if you pay off a debt or if you go another six months without delinquency.
The Online Credit Score Simulator provides only your TransUnion score and not those from Experian or Equifax.
To get your credit scores from all three major credit bureaus, you will need to subscribe to the deceptively titled FREE TransUnion Credit Score & $1 Credit Report offer. I say “deceptively” because it's free for only the first seven days. After seven days, you'll be billed at the rate of $19.95 per month. (This is not to knock TransUnion. The tactic seems to be common among free credit score offers.)
The paid service provides your credit scores from TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax, as well as Instant Alerts and the Credit Lock capability. (NOTE: Credit scores provided are VantageScore 3.0 and not FICO scores.)
Fast3CreditScores: $19.95 per month
Fast3CreditScores will provide you with a 14-day free trial of the service. After that, you'll pay $19.95 per month. The service comes with monthly three-bureau scores, daily credit monitoring and alerts, credit information hotline, and identity fraud support services.
It provides you with scores from all three credit bureaus: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. But there's a catch. The scores you are presented with are proprietary and not FICO scores. However, this is not unusual among free credit score providers. CreditXpert develops the scores, and while not “official,” they will provide you with relative tracking of your overall credit situation.
If you want your actual FICO scores from all three bureaus, there is a better option and, at only a slightly higher fee.
Credit Sesame – A Truly Free Credit Score Provider
Credit Sesame also offers free credit score monitoring, but it covers only a single score. That's the one issued by TransUnion. However, like Credit Karma, it uses the VantageScore 3.0 and not FICO scores.
Like Credit Karma, Credit Sesame is a truly free credit score provider and does not require that you put a credit card on file. The service updates your credit score once each month. It also gives you access to your credit report. One disadvantage is that you can check your score only once each month. If you check more frequently, there will be a charge.
Your Bank, Credit Union or Credit Card Provider
But you don't necessarily need to subscribe to a special service for monitoring purposes. These days, most financial institutions are offering some free credit score service. These institutions include banks, credit unions, credit card providers, and even some investment brokers.
For example, I have the Citi Double Cash card. It provides a free credit score to cardholders. The score is calculated based on data from Equifax, using FICO Bankcard Score 8, which is an average score used by credit card providers.
DCU Credit Union provides a free FICO Score 5 based on Equifax data for all its customers.
In the case of both providers, all you need to do is be a customer and sign up for the service.
So there you have eight different services for monitoring your credit score. Choose the one that will work best for you, whether it's a free or premium version.