So it's time to ask a tough question.  When was the last time you pulled a copy of your credit report or saw your credit score?  If it's been more than 6 months since you've seen either, then you could potentially have some serious issues going on with your credit, that you don't even know about.  A lot can happen in 6 months or even 1 month.  You could potentially be a victim of identity theft and not even know it until the next time you check your credit report.  There may also be reporting errors of which you're unaware.  These errors may not sound like a big deal, but they can affect your interest rate on credit cards, mortgages, auto loans and more.  Today is the day you should bite the bullet and take a serious look at your credit report.  There's a lot of credit report sites out there, but they're not all created equal.

The Top 3 Picks For The Best Credit Report Sites

  1. IdentityGuard  

    - Get all 3 credit reports/scores + top rated identity monitoring for a low monthly subscription (free 30 day trial membership)

  2. Experian.com

    - Trusted service from one of the major credit bureaus.  Get your free credit report with no credit card.  Simple & easy.

  3. FreeScore360

    - Top choice for individuals who primarily want to see their credit report & scores on a monthly basis.

If you've done any of your own research on credit report websites, I'm sure you were probably confused at some point about the different features that each service offered.  Some give you access to 1 credit score each month, others let you see your credit score from all 3 bureaus, but only 1 credit report.  Some include credit monitoring, others do not.  If you felt overwhelmed, don't worry, you're not alone.   Would you believe that there are more than 25 different "credit report" & "credit score" websites out there?  After tediously going through all of the listed features on these sites, I was easily able to narrow my list down to the three companies shown above.

Here's what to look for in a service that provides credit report & credit scores.

  • All 3 credit reports from Experian, Equifax & TransUnion
  • Credit scores from Experian, Equifax & TransUnion (FICO score is an added bonus)
  • Credit monitoring or identity theft protection (as part of the monthly subscription)
  • Credit tools to help you handle reporting errors and increase your credit score

#1 Identity Guard - Credit Reports, Scores, Tools + Monitoring

If you want a single solution for all of your credit needs, you're not going to find a better option than IdentityGuard.  With their Total Protection plan, you get access to your credit reports & credit scores from all 3 credit bureaus.  You also receive regular updates showing changes to your credit reports at the major consumer reporting bureaus. This lets you stay up-to-date on your credit files, which helps you make more informed financial decisions and better protect yourself from identity theft.

As for credit monitoring, IdentityGuard is the best in the business. They've been voted #1 Identity Protection service company by Kiplinger Magazines and the Online Trust Alliance several years running. All of their plans provide fast fraud alerts via text, phone or email.  100% comprehensive monitoring of multiple data sources including Social Security number monitoring, public record monitoring, dark web monitoring and more.

You also receive access to the IdentityGuard credit score app where you can see your current credit scores, manage your alert preferences and see a breakdown of the factors which affect your credit score.  It's a basic, but nice tool to keep track of your credit on the go.  You also get access to the full online credit & identity protection dashboard when you sign up.  This shows the current stats of your credit & identity protection, as well as the security of your computer and their lost wallet protection feature which is very cool.

Privacy Now™ With Watson™

Identity Guard recently launched a brand new service as part of their credit, identity & privacy protection services.  It's called Privacy Now™ and it's turned identity protection into a smart, intuitive system that uses the cognitive computing of IBM's Watson™ to search for new threats.  You’re not subscribing to a fixed service. You’re enrolling in an evolving, intelligent system of identity protection that helps to keep pace with the changing risks of our times.  Privacy Now™ adapts to how you live your life. As you continue to build your profile and respond to your Threat Alerts, you’ll continuously stay current with the most comprehensive identity protection available.

Privacy Now™ doesn't provide credit reports or credit scoring, but I wanted to mention it as an option, because with this level of intelligent identity protection, you don't need to regularly pull copies of your credit reports & scores.  Privacy Now™ does the heavy lifting for you and sends you alerts for any threats or changes it detects.  The monthly subscription is only $19.99, which is incredibly affordable for the level of protection you receive.  Learn more about Privacy Now™ here.

Pricing

Ok so let's get down to what everyone is most concerned about, the cost!  Here are the current prices for all of Identity Guard's monthly plans:

  • Total Protection - $16.99/month.  Free 30 day trial - Sign Up
  • Platinum - $24.99/month. Free 30 day trial - Sign Up
  • Couples Plan - $26.99/month. Free 30 day trial.  Covers 2 adults - Sign Up
  • Privacy Now™ - $19.99/month - No free 30 day trial

The Verdict:

If you want to have full control over your credit, Identity Guard offers the best solution & tools available.  Credit reports, credit scores, credit monitoring & intelligent identity protection are wrapped up into one comprehensive package that will cost you less than $20 bucks per month.  Now if you just want to grab a copy of your credit report or see your current credit score every couple months, there are other options, but keep in mind, you will likely pay close to the same amount as the Identity Guard plan, and you won't get all of these great features.  You can sign up for a free 30 day trial and pay only $16.99/month after the trial is over.  Click here to see your credit reports today & get start your free trial.


#2 Experian - Credit Reports, FICO Scores, & Monitoring 

If you're going to start keeping better track of your credit, you won't go wrong using the services of one of the 3 consumer credit reporting bureaus.  Experian (Formerly TRW) was founded in 1996 and and has been one of the 3 US credit reporting agencies along with Equifax & TransUnion.  They offer a host of credit services including consumer access daily to credit reports, free FICO score access, identity & credit monitoring, intelligent credit tools which show you exactly what is negatively or positively impacting your credit rating. You also receive access to a dedicated credit and fraud resolution team that can assist with any credit problems or cases of identity theft.

Here's some of the features you get with the Experian monthly credit report plan:

  • Experian Credit Report and FICO® Score
  • Easy-to-Read Credit Overview
  • Experian Credit Alerts
  • FICO® Score Tracker with Alerts
  • Toll-Free Support Available 7 Days a Week

Pricing

  • Experian Credit Report & FICO Score - $1.00 / 7 day trial then $21.95/month - Sign Up
  • 3 Bureau Credit Reports & FICO Score - $39.95 one time cost- Sign up
  • Experian ProtectMyID Credit Monitoring - $1.00 / 7 day trial then $19.95/month - Sign Up
  • Free Experian Credit Report - Updated every 30 days.  Free w/no credit card required - Sign Up

The Verdict

This is a 100% quality credit service from a trusted company that's been in business for more than 20 years and one of the only places you can get your FICO score.  What I really like about Experian's services is that they offer a few different options for getting your credit report and scores that should work for everyone.  A monthly plan, a one time payment and a free report option.  With the monthly plan you get a set of excellent tools to help better manage your credit and you get to use the Experian mobile app which gives you all of the tools as the online dashboard.  Another feature that you won't find with the other companies is the live customer support that you can use to get insight on your credit reports and ways you can improve your credit rating. Definitely consider Experian for your credit reporting and monitoring needs.


#3 FreeScore360 - Interactive Credit Tools, Scores & Reports

FreeScore360 powered by ScoreSense offers some similar features as the IdentityGuard plans, but is more focused on providing you with tools to understand what's going on with your credit and helping you improve your credit scores.  If you credit needs a little help, you'll want to see exactly what areas need to be addressed, including reporting errors. If you just want to get a comprehensive look at what's going on with your credit at any moment, FreeScore360 is going to be a good option for you.

With the FreeScore360 plan, you get immediate access to your credit scores from all 3 bureaus, plus monthly credit report from all 3 bureaus.  (Remember when I said this was important back at the beginning). You also get daily credit monitoring & alerts, access to their interactive tools and learning center and the reporting error Dispute Center.

Reporting Errors

Did you know that 1 in 5 credit reports have errors? FreeScore360's ScoreSense dispute center was developed for this exact reason.  You'll be able to identify reporting errors and learn how to dispute them, which will help boost your credit score and potentially save you thousand of dollars on loans and credit cards.  This feature helps speed up the process of removing errors from your credit report by communicating directly with the credit bureaus and filing disputes to have the errors removed.

Easy To Use Dashboard

As you may have noticed in the image above, the FreeScore360 Score Sense dashboard has all of your credit information right at your fingertips.  All 3 scores are shown on the main page and you can easily access your credit reports and see the status of your credit monitoring & identity protection.  Like Identity Guard, you also have access to the ScoreSense mobile app, which let's you receive alerts and check your scores on any mobile device.

Pricing

  • Free 7 day trial - $29.95/month - Sign Up

The Verdict

If you're less concerned about the credit monitoring aspect and are focused on improving your credit rating, FreeScore360 will be a solid option.  There has been some negative press about FreeScore360 & ScoreSense because of some false advertising and questionable billing procedures several years ago, but that's been resolved and you can sign up for their monthly plan knowing that you're getting a quality credit report service and you can easily cancel your subscription at any time.  Once you test it out for free, we're confident you'll love all the great features and want to keep using the tools on a monthly basis.  The one downside to the FreeScore360 plan is that the monthly price is a bit higher than similar services, so if you're budget conscious, you might want to consider one of the other credit report site options.


Other Credit Reporting Websites

There are several other options for getting copies of your credit reports and credit scores.  TransUnion is one of the other national credit reporting bureaus and they provide one time 3 bureau credit reports & scores, plus unlimited monthly access to your TransUnion credit report.  With their $9.95/month plan you also get 24/7 credit monitoring, credit change alerts, personalized debt analysis and their credit score simulator which let's you see how specific credit choices affect your scores.  You can also lock & unlock your TransUnion credit report directly from your online dashboard.  This is a good service from a trusted national company.  You can learn more & sign up here.

WalletHub is another good option that offers free credit scores and full credit reports that are updated on a daily basis, free 24/7 credit monitoring and customized credit-improvement tips

The 100% free website that let's you pull copies of all 3 credit reports one per year is AnnualCreditReport.com.  Although it's completely free, I recommend you take a look at your reports every 3 months at minimum.  A lot can change over the course of several months.  Checking your report annually is not often enough in my book.  Once you get your reports, it's up to you to figure out what you're looking at and what might need to be addressed.

What About The "Free" Credit Score Sites?

Here I'm talking about sites like CreditKarma.com, CreditSesame.com, Quizzle.com, Credit.com etc.  Yes, you can sign up for any of these sites free of charge and you will receive a credit score. The problem with these sites is that the credit score you see is not an accurate representation of the credit scores financial institutions use to determine your credit worthiness.  You need to know your FICO score as well as your Experian, Equifax, & TransUnion scores.  These are the scores that matter.  The other problem I have with the "free" credit score sites I listed above is that when you sign up, you automatically opt-in to having your information shared with multiple financial websites like LendingTree and several others who will start pitching you their services, whether you need them or not.  That's the price you pay for getting your free credit score, which is not very useful in the first place.

My advice: Even if you're on a budget, don't ignore your credit and pay a little more to get your real credit reports & scores from a trusted credit report website like any of the one's I discused earlier in the article.

One Time Credit Report vs. Monthly Subscriptions

This is a question I get asked often.  What's the benefit of paying for a monthly credit report/monitoring subscriptions, versus grabbing a copy of your credit report every few months.  It comes down to a couple factors really.  First, is budget.  You will pay around $35 every time you want to get a copy of your credit reports, whether you get it from one of the credit bureau sites or a 3rd party site that offers credit report access.

Now consider that you can subscribe to an IdentityGuard plan for under $20 a month, where you also get your credit reports & scores whenever you want. Plus you get daily credit monitoring and lots of other benefits.  You're only paying slightly more every 3 months for a subscription plan versus paying $35 for your credit report every 3 months.

The second factor is; what are you trying to accomplish?  Some people like to keep track of their credit themselves.  This is fine if you know what you're looking for and how to deal with errors or inaccuracies on your report, not to mention fraudulent items.  If you fall into this category, by all means get copies of your credit reports every few months and see if anything has changed.  Other people are not as confident with reading and interpreting what's on their credit reports.  They would rather pay a little extra to have the information presented in an easy to read format the explains exactly what is going on with their credit.  If this is you, a monthly plan might be a better option.


About the FICO® Score

FICO® Scores are developed by Fair Isaac Corporation. The FICO Score provided by ConsumerInfo.com, Inc.  Many but not all lenders use FICO Score 8.

In addition to the FICO Score 8, ECS may offer and provide other base or industry-specific FICO Scores (such as FICO Auto Scores and FICO Bankcard Scores). The other FICO Scores made available are calculated from versions of the base and industry-specific FICO Score models. There are many different credit scoring models that can give a different assessment of your credit rating and relative risk (risk of default) for the same credit report. Your lender or insurer may use a different FICO Score than FICO Score 8 or such other base or industry-specific FICO Score, or another type of credit score altogether. Just remember that your credit rating is often the same even if the number is not.

ficoscores

For some consumers, however, the credit rating of FICO Score 8 (or other FICO Score) could vary from the score used by your lender. The statements that "90% of top lenders use FICO Scores" and "FICO Scores are used in 90% of credit decisions" are based on a third-party study of all versions of FICO Scores sold to lenders, including but not limited to scores based on FICO Score 8. Base FICO Scores (including the FICO Score 8) range from 300 to 850. Industry-specific FICO Scores range from 250-900. Higher scores represent a greater likelihood that you'll pay back your debts so you are viewed as being a lower credit risk to lenders. A lower FICO Score indicates to lenders that you may be a higher credit risk.

There are three different major credit reporting agencies — the Experian credit bureau, TransUnion® and Equifax® — that maintain a record of your credit history known as your credit report. Your FICO Score is based on the information in your credit report at the time it is requested. Your credit report information can vary from agency to agency because some lenders report your credit history to only one or two of the agencies. So your FICO Score can vary if the information they have on file for you is different. Since the information in your report can change over time, your FICO Score may also change.

6 Ways You Can Start Improving Your Credit Score Today

Don't let a low credit score prevent you from achieving your dreams. Simply, a higher credit score means you can secure a lower interest rate on your home loan, car loan, whatever. If you can secure a lower interest rate, you're paying less to the bank or loan company and that means more money in your wallet! So, to improve your credit score, just follow these six simple credit score repair tips.

1. Get a copy of your credit report from any of the companies I discussed earlier in the article

2. Now that you have your credit report in front of you, check for any errors and write those down.

3. Errors can be simple but overlooked. For instance, an error could be in the form of a misspelling of a letter somewhere in your middle name or perhaps your address. Write a letter to the credit agency and point out those errors, why these are errors and that you would like them immediately removed. Each month, send off a letter listing three new errors.

4. In your credit report, if you find an account that is over seven years old, those should be removed. Let the agency know you would like it removed from your credit report immediately.

5. Every month apply the principles above and try to remove unwanted items or errors from your report. This step is an important one toward credit score repair. If the items do not come off, try again within a few months. Make sure to handwrite your letters to the bureau and include any documentation you may have.

6. If you find credit card or bank loan accounts that show late payments on your credit report, contact the lender to see if they are willing to remove them. If they will not, write a letter to each credit bureau asking them to remove the account. If the lender does not respond within 30 days, the credit bureau will remove the account from your report. If you are unable to pay your bills on time, contact the lender and ask them if they can work with you. They may be willing to restructure the loan to fit the circumstance.

You can achieve a high credit score and be on the road to becoming financially free if you perform the steps listed above. In this very tough economic climate, having a good credit score gives you the financial edge by allowing you to pay off your loans more quickly with lower interest rates. This results in having more money in your wallet and more opportunity to purchase the things you really want.

Wrapping Up

So what did we learn here?  Your credit score is important.  You probably already new that.  Ignoring your credit is a very bad idea.  You probably knew that as well.  Unfortunately, most people don't think about their credit very often or monitor it on a regular basis.  The best credit report websites give you access to your credit scores, reports, monitor your credit and provide you with tools to improve your credit.  The services I discussed and recommended have features and prices that should fit the budgets and needs of just about any person.  It's never too late to start taking the health of your credit seriously.  Sign up or get a copy of your credit report today and see if you can get your credit score moving in the right direction.