Did you see commercials for a free credit service from Experian. They do something clever in that they de-emphasize the free credit score idea and instead play up the concept that “credit is a skill” rather than a number. This is actually true advice, even if it isn’t what most people are looking for.
This new push is undoubtedly a response to the growing number of free credit score services out there like Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, and WalletHub. Keep in mind there is no Experian free credit score offering, but we’ll get to that in a minute. This is also not the same thing as getting your annual free credit report that is required by federal law.
Free Experian Credit Report Not Free Experian Credit Score
Is Experian a scam? There are plenty of unsavory things about Experian’s business, but at least they are not some new free credit report, or free credit score business. Experian is one of the three major credit bureaus, and they have been around for a long time. If you have ever had a credit card, mortgage, car loan, or personal loan, chances are, they already have a report on you with all of your information. Which means, unlike some of the other newer free credit report businesses, you don’t have to worry about giving them your data, they already have it.
The credit bureaus lobbied Congress hard to keep people from being able to get their credit reports for free. They lost that fight (sort-of) several years ago when Congress required them to give you ONE free credit report every year. While this is better than nothing, credit fraud, and inaccurate information on credit reports is an epidemic in America, and the only defense is to monitor your credit report regularly, so that once per year thing doesn’t really cut it. Since, many lenders report your information to all three credit bureaus, you can work the system to get a free credit report more than once a year by staggering your requests for your free annual credit report to every four months.
However, in the last few years, many financial companies have begun offering a free look at your credit report as a way to market their services. Some of these offers are pretty legit, others are scams that actually sign you up for expensive credit monitoring subscriptions. So, at risk of becoming ignored, it looks like Experian is going to play ball.
It is important to be careful about what you sign up for. Experian is a scam when it comes to signing up for a free credit score. (That’s SCORE not REPORT, there is a difference.)
Actually, you can get an Experian credit score for $1… until you read the fine print. The reason they charge you that one dollar, instead of giving you a free credit score, is so that they can get your credit card number. And, they’ll use that credit card number to charge you $21.95 PER MONTH for a membership in something called Experian CreditWorks, which is essentially nothing more than an email alert if there is a change on your credit report. The annual cost is $263.40 for that! So, CreditWorks is a scam, no matter how much “credit is a skill.”
That being said, you can sign up for a free monthly credit report from Experian. The Experian free monthly credit report is not a scam. You don’t even need a credit card number to sign up.
This is IMPORTANT! Do NOT sign up for anything that requires a credit card number. If you do, you are signing up for the wrong thing, and YOU WILL BE CHARGED.
The free credit report from Experian is much the same as you’ll get from other companies, or even from your existing bank accounts or credit card companies. It’s basically a list of information about you, including all the credit accounts you have open, and even the ones that you have closed, along with a payment history.
This is a valuable tool to use to improve your credit score, even if you don’t have the actual credit score number. Most the free credit score services actually give you a fake, or FAKKO, credit score anyway. What IS important is the information on your credit report is what is used to calculate your real credit score.
The most critical thing is to make sure that everything on your credit report is accurate. If you see accounts that you don’t recognize, call them. Often, it’s an old account that you forgot all about. There is no reason to close them if they have a zero balance. It still counts as a paid, existing, line of credit, which is a plus for you.
If there is anything that shows up as negative, correct it as soon as possible. Everything on your credit score ages, so the sooner you correct any issues, the faster negative information gets taken off your credit report. It takes years to fully disappear, but a missed payment five years ago, counts less than a missed payment five months ago.
Be sure to only sign up for the FREE service (it won’t ask for a credit card number) and use it to keep an eye on your credit report. If everything is correct, and you’re making all of your payments on time, your credit score will take care of yourself, even if you don’t know exactly what it is.