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There are so many sites out there today that offer you a “free credit score” or your credit reports that sometimes it can be confusing. Which site should you use? How do you get an accurate credit score? Well, it depends on what you are looking for. Here’s a good breakdown of where to get your credit information depending on what you need:
This is the time to use one of those “free credit score” sites. Most of these sites offer a variation of the credit score that lenders use (your FICO score) to determine how creditworthy you are. These sites can either just use one of the three credit bureau scores — TransUnion, Equifax and Experian — or they can use a different scaling system, like a Vantage score. For example, Credit Karma will show you both your TransUnion score and your Vantage score. Credit Sesame uses the Experian scores. Most of the time, these scoring systems use the same scale as FICO and are usually very close to your FICO score, but are very rarely exactly the same. It’s good to use these scores as a general guide to how your credit is doing.
If you want your actually FICO credit score — the score that lenders use to rate you — you have a few options. The “free” option is to sign up for a credit card that includes it with your monthly statement. Here are the top credit cards that include your FICO score with your monthly bill.
Many people don’t know this, but the government requires that everyone have free access to their three credit reports — one from each bureau — once a year. If you want to check out what is included in your credit report, go to annualcreditreport.com and it will walk you through how to order each of your three credit reports. You don’t have to order all three at once; if you just want to see one of your reports, you can just order that one. Keep in mind that not all lenders report to all three credit bureaus, so an item on one report may not necessarily be on another report.
If you want regular access to both your credit reports and scores, it is best to sign up for a credit monitoring or identity theft protection service. These services allow you to monitor your credit reports on a monthly basis and most let you keep track of your credit scores as well. Just keep in mind that most of these services also only give you a variation of your FICO credit score, but the top ones will give you your Experian, Equifax and TransUnion scores, which will give you a better idea of what your FICO score would.