It’s sometimes frustrating that credit scores are not free (unlike credit reports which we can get free once a year at www.annualcreditreport.com)
I recently ran across a pretty cool tool for estimating your credit score. It draws on the formula for FICO scores, but you don’t enter any personal information. It simply asks you a set of ten questions about your credit situation, and gives you a range that your personal credit score probably falls into. I like it because:
- By answering the ten questions, we get a clear sense of what factors affect our score – it’s a great learning tool!
- No personal data is entered – it’s great for people who prefer to avoid sharing their information, yet it still gives a general idea of where you might stand.
This tool is found at Bankrate.com. In general I’m cautious about information from commercial sites, and the fact is that when I was done, the estimator recommended that I purchase a particular credit score analysis package. I declined, of course. However, Bankrate is a reputable financial research and publishing company; I get good information from them, just as from other for-profit financial publishers, and simply decide to put up with the ever-present advertisements.
My results were probably pretty accurate. It was lower than the last time I saw my true credit score (last summer when I bought a car), but there’s probably a reason for that: twice in the last six months I have yielded to the temptation to get a discount on purchase if I applied for a store credit card. And applying for new credit can pull your score down, at least for a while. So a lower credit score is a consequence of that action. Luckily I’m not applying for any loans anytime soon, and even my lower score is well within an acceptable range.
For more about credit scores see below. ~Barb
In general we don’t need our credit scores to protect ourselves from fraud. But we might like to know where we stand. And it can be smart to check your credit score 3-6 months before applying for any major loan, in case there are any negative factors which you could take care of prior to applying. Currently it costs about $9 to get a credit score in conjunction with your free credit report, and when you really need to know your score, that can be a worthwhile investment.
There are some places (on-line) where you can get free credit scores. Some of the best-known seem to be perfectly reputable, so that entering your Social Security Number and other information is probably no more risky than most other on-line transactions. These sites, however, are almost always hoping to sell you something – they give you some information for free and then encourage you to sign up for a paid service which they offer. In addition, they often provide a score that is not a FICO score. FICO scores are the long-standing industry standard. Other scoring models have been developed recently, and can be useful, but they may or may not be the same model that your lender uses in evaluating credit applications.