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By Mory Brenner, Esq. and Bankruptcy Alternatives

Credit scores affect your life every day. You may use a credit card, drive a car funded by an auto loan or sleep in your home covered by a mortgage, but your credit score played a role in how you conducted all of those financial transactions. While you may not need your credit score to apply for a loan every day, or need to follow the ups and downs of your exact credit score by the minute, knowing your credit score and the entries listed on your credit report that make up the numeric score rank as something each person needs to know about themselves. With the value of finding out your credit score established, the question becomes how to best discover your own credit score facts. This article examines the various options for learning your credit scores, which people might fit the particular choices and how to avoid scams and wasting money on the wrong credit score products. From here I shall assume you started with some basic knowledge about credit scores, if not please read the understanding credit scores faq first.

Basic Credit Score - One Credit Bureau

Let's start with a basic credit score, just one score. The most popular score if you ask people likely emerges as their FICO credit score and I don't know that they would be wrong. If you don't know your credit score at all or just want a simple update obtaining only your FICO score makes a great option. When you buy your FICO score online you also get a copy of your Equifax credit report to help see how your credit report and score got constructed and if any errors on the report need removal. This service should cost in the range of $15-$20. If you want to know your credit score for the cheapest price without getting involved in subscriptions or cancellations use this option. Be sure to look at the order site carefully to make this selection as they may try to encourage other more expensive credit products.

All Three Credit Scores

People on the verge of a major purchase like buying a home or a car may want to learn all of their major credit scores. Many lenders use either the middle score or the low score from Expirian, Equifax or Trans Union so you need all three to figure that out. You can proceed in the most organized way by ordering your three credit scores online or you may wish to save the $35-$50 charge by making your first car loan application or contact with a mortgage broker and see if they will tell you the credit scores they discovered for you. Note that auto loan providers do not need to report the credit scores to you unless they turn you down for the loan you asked for, although they might tell you if you ask. Home loan lenders or mortgage brokers must disclose the credit score they pulled even if only for a prequalification without you filling out a full mortgage application. When you order your own three scores you also receive your complete credit report from each of the credit bureaus. This becomes very important if you find errors on your credit report that you need to fix.

Free Credit Reports No Credit Scores

Advanced preparation makes the best plan for people starting to get their personal finances in order a year or more prior to buying a house. While consumers in this position may wish to buy all three credit scores and reports, a good start may be ordering a set of free credit reports. The government mandates each person maintains the right to view their credit reports once per year free of charge. Note this right includes viewing only your credit reports not any credit scores. The price marks one advantage of this approach, free is good, and if you find errors on any report this method alerts you to the need to begin corrective measures. For people who predict nothing on their credit report this makes a good option to either verify their theory or to discover what already exists on their credit report for better or worse. Armed with the information in the reports people may try to just get a free credit score estimate. While not exact, this method may give people with no idea what their credit score might be some clue or rough starting point.

Free Credit Reports, Credit Scores And Credit Repair Help

Just about everyone with a radio or television knows about services offering free credit reports and scores. While you certainly get your credit reports and scores for free, you also get signed up for subscription services you may or may not need. Of these offerings the one I like best involves combining credit repair and the credit reports. The software subscription guides people through the process of correcting errors on a credit report and getting them corrected or removed. For people who know they have errors on their credit report this may prove a valuable tool. With a price tag of about $30 per month this represents a fair compromise between the cost of hiring a credit score attorney and a free do it yourself solution. Our free credit improvement guide walks you through the process of repairing credit report errors on your own or hiring a credit repair law firm as an alternative. Some people may even opt to get their free credit reports and credit scores with a credit repair service subscription to see their reports and credit scores, than if they find no errors they just cancel their plan within five days to avoid any costs. If you read your credit reports right away and make sure to cancel before the credit repair subscription kicks in if your credit report contained no errors, this might stand as the best way to get your own credit scores for free.

Free Credit Reports, Credit Scores And Credit Monitoring Service

Most TV and radio ads to get your credit reports and credit scores free follow this model. You will indeed receive all three credit reports and credit scores for free, but to get the offer you must enroll in a credit monitoring service at a cost of $12-$15 per month. For people very concerned with credit monitoring this may rank as a great option. Unfortunately, I think few consumers really need a credit monitoring service and in the end this might become a "free" credit report costing $180 per year. Many experts feel this free credit score offer represents an outright scam. The worst part in terms the this type of free credit report becoming a scam happens when people do not understand the requirement of the subscription service or the fees that go along with it. Let's go over some examples illustrating when a credit monitoring service merits a subscription. Examine the case of a couple who stood in the middle of a long nasty divorce where the husband controlled all finances and credit cards. The wife's credit ended up on a roller coaster as the husband's finances bounced up and down, including loans and credit card debt still in her name. Credit monitoring not only provided her with updates or where she stood, but it gave her a glimpse into the husband's finances. Some people, particularly first time homebuyers, might find themselves with a credit score too low for a mortgage. As they work hard on a credit score increase they want to monitor their progress monthly. Some claim that these credit services help with identity theft, but while credit monitoring may provide some additional detection, you will likely find out about identity fraud in other ways just as fast without paying a monthly fee and the service in no way combats identity fraud before it happens. Credit score bureaus responded to the scams accusations by trying to make it more clear their free credit reports require a subscription, just pay attention and know the details of the credit score offer. Services which get advertised the most are not necessarily the best, but for some people they do make a good choice.

Credit Scores Conclusion

Everyone with a credit score should know their credit score and those with low credit scores should try to improve their credit scores. Understand that credit reports and credit scores represent different things and figure out if you really need information about credit reports, credit scores or both. You may indeed get your credit reports once per year for free, but you will not get your scores using this method. Beware of services offering free credit scores as they likely come with costly subscription services, for consumers in need of the specific services great, but for others signing up to see credit scores for free starts a drain on your wallet that will go on every month until canceled, often for no benefit. Learn the facts about credit score products, know your own personal finance circumstances and find the credit score product that fits best, being smart about your credit starts with being smart about learning your credit scores.

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Nothing contained herein should be construed to constitute advice for your personal circumstances. This is intended as a peripheral exposure to the various options available, but by no means is this a comprehensive or exhaustive analysis of the bankruptcy laws or their alternatives. Whether or not you should file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, Chapter 13 bankruptcy, or any bankruptcy, will vary depending on your personal circumstances and should only be undertaken after careful consideration, analysis and after consultation with an attorney experienced with such matters. These pages may contain information and rules peculiar to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

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