For some reason, the geniuses of credit reporting decided it'd be a good idea to offer the physical report for free once a year and dangle the actual score itself in front of us like a juicy carrot.
If you want to find out your actual credit score you usually have to pay and endure a barrage of ads for all sorts of different credit monitoring products in the meantime.
Luckily, there are a handful of places you can go for a free score. Some of our favorites are Credit Sesame, Credit.com and Credit Karma, which all offer free credit scores to people who sign up for their services. You can also get an estimate of your credit score range from Bankrate.com. On all these sites, your score can be updated on a monthly basis.
So which site should you use?
The biggest difference between the scores offered by these sites is which credit reporting agency data they are based on. Credit Sesame offers up the Experian National Risk Score, which is based on data collected by Experian only. Credit.com offers a free estimate of your score based on Experian data, which it uses to assign you a letter grade (A-F). CreditKarma offers two scores – your VantageScore credit score and your TransRisk credit score – which are both based on TransUnion data.
What that means for you: Not much.
" Your scores should be similar regardless of where you get them as long as your credit data is similar. And, those scores are going to be directionally similar to your FICO score," s ays John Ulzheimer, credit expert for Creditsesame.com. " So, if you have great credit you'll have a great score regardless of what model is being used. If you have poor credit you'll have a poor score regardless of what model is being used."
Our advice: Check your scores on all three sites (Why not? They're free.). If your Credit.com score is way off from your CreditKarma score, it could be a clue that there's an error on either your Experian or TransUnion credit reports and vice versa. Just don't get too caught up in the number itself. Since there are so many kinds of scores out there and lenders pick and choose which ones to judge you by, it's nearly impossible to keep track of them all. Instead, focus on which risk category you find yourself in (example: low risk, high risk, excellent, etc.) to get an idea of how healthy your credit is.
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