Was one of your New Year’s resolutions to improve your credit score? Or maybe you’re hoping to buy a home soon? Perhaps you just like to be on top of all of your personal financial data so you can press on towards achieving your goals?
Regardless of your reasons, checking your credit often can have a powerful impact. Studies show that checking your credit score often actually helps you improve it more efficiently.
And, sure, you can get your official FICO score directly from FICO or one of the credit reporting bureaus–for a hefty monthly fee. But there are also plenty of great free options that give you access to an approximation of your credit score.
These sites can give you a free credit score based on your latest credit report information. Pulling your score each month doesn’t negatively affect your score. And sometimes the estimated scores are pretty accurate. They just aren’t the official score some lenders will see.
But to be honest, neither are some of the scores you pay beaucoup bucks to access. That’s because lenders can choose from more than twenty different FICO scoring models, plus models from other credit scoring companies. Since you never know which exact score a lender will check, it’s next to impossible to know the exact score a lender will see for you.
With that said, we’ve checked out the best credit score sites of 2018. These are the places you should go to get your credit score. They’re known for accuracy and ease of use, and we’ll tell you which scoring model each site uses, where possible.
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This site has long been one of my personal favorites for tracking my credit score. It bases its score on the VantageScore, which is becoming more popular with some lenders. But even if your lenders don’t prefer this score, it gives you a good idea of what your credit looks like based on both your TransUnion and Equifax scores.
One of the best parts of Credit Karma is its easy-to-use credit score simulator. This lets you see how different potential moves–paying down debt, missing a payment, opening a new account, etc.–might affect your credit score. It’s a helpful way to plan out your credit moves or just get some extra motivation for paying down debt.
Another advantage of Credit Karma is that it updates your credit scores weekly. Many of these free providers update monthly. It’s nice to know that if something is off with your credit, you can know sooner rather than later. And you can even get alerts when your credit score increases or decreases, so you’ll know right away.
As with most of the other sites here, Credit Karma makes its money by giving you recommendations on different types of loans and financial products. If you’re on the hunt for a consolidation loan or credit card, it can help you find lenders that might be a match based on your credit profile. And if you go with those lenders through the Credit Karma site, they’ll get a commission from the lender.
Read More: Credit Karma Review
Credit Sesame also uses the VantageScore model. One drawback compared with Credit Karma is that it tracks only your TransUnion Score, and it only updates monthly.
However, Credit Sesame makes up for that in a couple of different ways. One is its robust credit score analysis. It offers a section-by-section breakdown of the different aspects of your credit score and how you can improve them. The breakdowns come with a variety of handy charts and graphs, and the overall presentation is nice. This is definitely a great credit score site for those who are more visual.
As with Credit Karma, Credit Sesame gives you recommendations for potential loans and other financial products that might suit your needs. They also offer you a variety of credit alert options. You can set up emails for overlimit alerts, credit increases or decreases, and more. And you can pay for more robust identity protection tools if you choose.
Read More: Credit Sesame Review
A relative newcomer to the free credit score arena, WalletHub has a slick interface that I really like. It also updates your credit score daily. This can be helpful if you’re in the middle of paying off debt or other moves that could impact your score rather quickly. Just remember that your credit information isn’t going to the bureaus daily, so you may not see changes immediately.
The advertising on WalletHub is less obtrusive than with the other two sites, but it’s still there. It also has a more all-around financial wellness feel. When you sign up for an account, it asks you about your overall expenditures and personal financial goals, which can be helpful. Overall, this is another nice place to get your approximate credit score for free.
Remember how I said you shouldn’t likely be paying lots of money every month for your credit score? Well, that’s true. But it’s also true that you sometimes might want to pay for an official score.
For instance, if you’re getting ready to apply for a home loan, you may want to know for certain what your credit score is. Again, this may not be the exact score a potential lender will see because FICO has so many models. But it’ll be more accurate than the VantageScores provided by the three services listed above.
Right now, you can get your FICO Score 9 and FICO Score 8 from all three credit reporting bureaus for $59.85, or you can choose a report from just one bureau for $19.95. If you’re serious about checking your reports for errors and ensuring you’re in ship shape for a mortgage application, I’d just spring the $59.85.
However, you would only want to take this move after using one or more of the free sites listed above to get your credit score in better shape. These other sites can give you insight into potential major holes in your credit report. Fix those issues, and then pay for the FICO scores to make sure you’re truly ready to apply for a major loan.
And, remember, you can always get one free credit report (not score!) per year from each of the three credit reporting bureaus. You can get these through annualcreditreport.com. These reports can help you find any potential errors that need to be corrected before you would apply for a major loan. So take that step and use the free credit estimator sites before you pay for your scores from myFICO.
Read More: MyFICO Review
Looking for a way to get a higher credit score quicker? We recommend Experian Boost™. It’s free and can see when you pay your utility and mobile phone bills. Every payment that you make that’s on time can boost your credit score. Want to learn more? Start now for free!