From the moment you were approved for that first credit card, loan or line of credit, you’ve been making timely payments to keep the account in good standing. And you’ve also accelerated debt-repayment when your finances permitted you to do so.
Now, you’re in the market for a new ride and plan to secure financing to make the purchase. It’s been awhile since you checked your credit report, but you’re certain your FICO score will qualify you for an auto loan with a competitive interest rate.
You complete the loan application and to your surprise, it is rejected.
How could this happen? Upon further review, you discover your FICO score is in the trenches and there are several items on your credit report you have no knowledge of.
Unfortunately, similar scenarios surface everyday in the lives of innocent consumers who handle their finances responsibly, but fail to monitor their credit.
Wondering how often you should actually check your credit to prevent this from happening to you? Most financial experts recommend at least once a year, but there are several free ways to keep tabs on your credit profile year round.
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This website grants you access to one free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus, TransUnion, Equifax and Experian, annually. Although the scores may vary slightly, the contents of the profile are the same, so it’s best to request one report every four months instead of all at once to continuously monitor your credit.
However, you should be mindful that credit bureaus do not exchange information, so there’s a possibility the contents of each report could vary. Furthermore, errors could go undetected for months at a time if you are not enrolled in a credit monitoring service.
Free Credit Monitoring
For years, I paid for a monthly subscription for a credit monitoring service to stay on top of my credit score and receive alerts if any activity occurred. That’s until I discovered there were several websites out there that did the same thing for free. These include:
- Credit Karma™
- Credit Sesame
Unless I receive an alert that warrants immediate review, I typically access my information using these sites once a month. And if I’m alerted of any activity or changes, I can quickly resolve the issue if needed instead of waiting a few months to access another report free of charge.
Before subscribing, read online reviews and conduct research to confirm the tool is right for you. Before I made the switch, I ran two platforms with my paid subscription for a few months.
As noted above, another free credit monitoring service that actually updates on a daily basis is Wallethub. They base their score off the Vantage 3.0 model and provide money saving recommendations tailored towards your financial situation.
Credit Card Issuers
Many credit card issuers are providing cardholders with FICO scores each month on statements and via the online dashboard. Select portals also include simulator tools to help cardholders improve their credit over time.
If your application for credit is denied, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report if you submit a request within 6o days. You are also entitled to a free copy of your credit report if:
- Your application for insurance for employment is denied because of your credit
- You’re unemployed and plan to commence the search for employment within 60 days
- You’re a welfare recipient
A Final Thought
Prior to submitting an application for credit, thoroughly review your credit report to confirm all entries are accurate and timely.