You may already know that it’s important to routinely monitor your personal credit information (it is!) You want to be on the lookout for fraud, but you also want to track your own creditworthiness so you don’t overpay when it comes time to borrow money.
Here, I’ll describe as simply as possible how to check your own credit for free without using a service that requires a credit card and starts billing you if you don’t cancel.
An honestly free credit score and report
I recommend Credit Karma — a truly free service for checking and monitoring your credit score. (I should disclose that after trying Credit Karma myself, I joined Money Under 30 with their affiliate program, meaning this site earns a small amount for referring new users. If you choose to support this site in that way — thanks!)
Credit Karma provides you with two credit scores — from TransUnion and Equinox — for free. Here’s what their dashboard looks like:
From there you can dive into:
- A free FULL copy of your TransUnion credit report
- A credit report card that shows you how various factors — such as payment history, credit utilization, and account age — affect your scores
- Free debt management advice and recommendations to improve your score
Credit Karma is free because they can advertise things on their site like targeted credit card offers, so they don’t have to charge you.
For most people, CreditKarma is an ideal way to track your credit score. For the credit-obsessed, you may want to get proactive reports if anything on your credit report changes. If you’re serious about tracking your credit, consider paying for a credit monitoring service, instead.
Getting all three free credit reports
CreditKarma provides you with one of your three credit bureaus (TransUnion). While this is adequate for reviewing your report and knowing what’s on it, you want to check your credit reports from all THREE credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — at least once a year.
You can download a free copy of each of your three credit reports at annualcreditreport.com. It’s mandated by law, but this is the only site where you can do this. This gets you your credit report—the detailed lists of your credit accounts, debt balances, and payment history — but will NOT show you your credit score, the number lenders use to evaluate your creditworthiness and compare you to other borrowers.
- Checking your credit will not cause your credit score to go down.
- Your credit report and credit score are related, but different. Hit up annualcreditreport.com for all three reports once a year, and Credit Karma for a free credit score and TransUnion report.
- These sites will ask for personal information like your social security number (SSN) — they have to in order to verify your identity and pull your credit information.
- Do beware of sites that require a credit card number to check your report or score — they will probably charge your card monthly unless you cancel.