Graduated Learning: Life after College

I got my degree, I got a job…now what?

Trying out Credit Karma July 10, 2011

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 11:27 pm

A lot of people obsess about their credit score.  Some people have even made it their goal to get the “perfect FICO score” of 850.

My goal is to make sure I keep my credit history clean and my credit score high.  So I pay my bills every month on time.  I do all the right things.

Now, I know that I can access my credit reports for free.  By law, we’re entitled to one free credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) every 12 months.  You just go to annualcreditreport.com  and follow the instructions.  This is the only site authorized to provide free annual credit reports that you are entitled to under the law.  I don’t go through that other site you hear all the commercials for.  There’s usually a catch.  A catch that costs you money.  Not a fan of catches.

So, free access to my credit report.  Check.

What about my score?  Where’s that?

So there are a few different ways to find out your credit score.  If you go to annualcreditreport.com, when you access your credit report, the credit reporting agency will offer to sell you your score.  That will usually set you back $10 or so every time you want to check your score.  Also note, you’ll likely get slightly different scores from the different credit reporting agencies depending on what information they have on you and (which you’ll know, after checking your credit report) and the formula they use.

But if you’re looking for a good way to keep track of your credit score, and you don’t want to buy it every time, or sign up for one of those services, there is another way. I’d been hearing about CreditKarma for a while.  A lot of bloggers seem to like and use their service (check Bargaineering,  The Centsible Life, Paranoid Asteroid, Quarterlife Finances, and My Personal Finance Journey)  And it seemed like a pretty good deal.

You sign up, submit your personal information once (yes, that includes your SSN, but they use lots of security), and it tells you an estimate of your credit score and reviews how your credit history and financial activities impact your credit score.  You can update your credit scores every once in a while.

I started using CreditKarma back in January, when I realized I wasn’t sure how my credit usage was affecting my score. And I really just wanted to know what my score was without having to pay. But I wasn’t sure I wanted to sign up. I was nervous about giving them my SSN online. But I read their FAQ, reviewed what people have said, and understood the security they use. Also, they don’t share or sell your info.

So, what do I think? I think it’s a pretty useful service.

Pros:

  • Free access to your credit scores:  TransRisk score (calculated using your TransUnion credit report), VantageScore (score calculated by TransUnion using a formula developed by all 3 credit reporting agencies), and your Auto Insurance Score.
  • Trusted website:  my info is safe
  • Gives you guidance on why your score is where it is
  • Tracks your score up and down as you refresh it every time.
  • Explains why your score changed since the last time you checked
  • Gives you a simulator to estimate how things you do could change your score (for better or worse)
  • Their newest feature shows recommended credit cards for your credit score, and a predictor of how likely you are to get a specific credit card if you apply for it

Cons:

  • Only an estimate based on your TransUnion credit report.  If you’re looking for your FICO score, you won’t get it there.
  • Not all cards report your credit limit, which could skew your score down when it makes your credit utilization ratio higher
  • They’re able to provide free scores by partnering up with sponsors (usually banks and credit card companies).  So you’ll see “featured credit cards” on the site, but they do make it clear that those are sponsored ads/recommendations.

Bottom line: I like this service. The price tag is great (free), and the explanations they give about where your score is is helpful. When you actually plan on making a big purchase and get a loan, I’d recommend buying the actual scores beforehand so you don’t have any surprises.  But in the meantime, go ahead and find out your score!

Let me know what you think.  Have you used this service?  Do you like it?  Do you have an alternate, preferred site?

(Note, this is not a paid post from CreditKarma.  I just like checking out new websites and telling people what I think about them.  And I think this site does what it says it does.  Good enough for me!)

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