Several years ago, it was common for companies to advertise “free credit reports” on TV and radio spots. Most of the offers were a bait and switch. Sign up, get a free credit report and score, then see your credit card charged $10-$20 every month after that if you didn’t cancel on time. Thankfully, the Credit Card Act of 2009 changed the way companies are allowed to advertise free credit reports. The Federal Trade Commission now requires credit bureaus and credit monitoring services to market credit reports differently than previously.
Credit scores can change once a week for some and not at all for months (or even longer) for others. It usually takes specific changes to your credit information for your score to move, and once these changes occur, it could take some time for your credit report to reflect your new status. Due to this fact, you may want to consider tracking your credit score over longer periods of time. While the fact that your credit score hasn’t moved in a few months might seem concerning, it will likely seem less so in the context of a sixty-point improvement over an entire year.
Keep in mind that while you're entitled to a free credit report, you will have to pay for your FICO score, which is the most common credit score. You can go to FICO's Web site, and your score will probably cost around $40. A situation in which you may want to buy your credit score is when you're shopping for loans. Your credit score can affect your rate, so knowing your score from each agency may help you decide who will give you the best rate when you borrow money.
You don’t have to earn a perfect credit score of 850 to be considered successful or qualify for the lowest interest on loans. A more optimal credit score to work toward is 760. Anyone with a score of 760 and above will likely get desirable rates offered by lenders. A history of credit, on-time payments and decreasing the amount you owe will help you work toward this goal.
When you apply for any new line of credit - for example, a new credit card - the creditor requests a copy of credit report from one or more of the credit bureaus. The creditor will evaluate your credit report, a credit score, or other information you provide (such as income or debt information) to determine your credit worthiness, as well as your interest rate. If you're approved, that new card - called a tradeline, will be included in your credit report and updated about every 30 days.
Only one website is authorized to fill orders for the free annual credit report you are entitled to under law — annualcreditreport.com. Other websites that claim to offer “free credit reports,” “free credit scores,” or “free credit monitoring” are not part of the legally mandated free annual credit report program. In some cases, the “free” product comes with strings attached. For example, some sites sign you up for a supposedly “free” service that converts to one you have to pay for after a trial period. If you don’t cancel during the trial period, you may be unwittingly agreeing to let the company start charging fees to your credit card.