If you haven't pulled your credit report in the last year, then you're entitled to request a credit report from each one of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and the TransUnion). Though there are three major credit bureaus, there are many other credit reporting services that can offer you your best credit report. In this review I looked at reports and paid services, here are some options.
There are around 40 million people with mistakes on their credit report. It's important to check your credit report so creditors, landlords and potential employers are looking at accurate representations of your credit. We've explored the different reporting services available to find the best offerings.
In This Guide
The Best Credit Report Sites: Our Top Picks
Knowing your credit score is an essential part of managing your finances. Getting a credit report online is a good place to start but some companies offer additional services. Luckily, there are a variety of credit report sites from which to choose.
Experian Credit Report
- Online dispute tool
- Easy-to-view dashboard
- Unlimited access to Experian report/PLUS score
- Identity theft protection
- Educational resources
- Not the most widely used scoring model
Experian is one of the top credit reporting agencies in the world, having operated in more than 40 countries. They keep you informed on the latest news regarding your credit, while gathering information from the other two main credit bureaus, Equifax and Transunion. Experian also provides you with many different tools to gauge how certain actions may affect your score.
MyFICO Credit Report
- Most common scoring model
- Large educational library
- FICO Score Simulator
- Alerts of changes
- Identity theft protection
- Don’t receive consistent reports from all three bureaus
MyFico is one of the most accurate ways to determine your FICO scores while giving you monthly access to new credit reports. This is an important resource when researching mortgage, auto, and credit card lending agencies that use FICO scores to determine if you're creditworthy. One of the main features is a timeline that lets you track your score over time.
TransUnion Credit Report
- Fraud alerts
- Credit freeze feature
- Educational resources
- Helpful business tools
- Competitively priced reporting
- Only reports from one bureau
Transunion, in addition to being one of the three major credit bureaus, offers some off the best credit management software online. They also give you up to date alerts and protection in case of fraud. Additionally, they provide plenty of educational articles to help you make the best decisions when it comes to managing your credit.
What is Credit?
Credit is basically where you stand when it comes to your finances and reflects your status as a borrower. It's the way banks and other financial institutions determine whether or not you will be able to pay back loans based on your financial history. For example, when applying for a car loan, financing centers will look at how quickly and consistently you have paid back other loans and bills.
This will help them decide if you are dependable when it comes to money. This also applies to all sorts of institutions like student loan lenders, banks, credit unions, cell phone companies, landlords, utility companies, and even employers. Believe it or not, many employers check a prospective employee's credit history before hiring them. This helps them determine whether or not the employee will be financially stable. Credit is who you are financial.
Credit also takes time to build up. Paying your bills on time for two months will not automatically give you amazing credit. In fact, some landlords may check your credit, but they won't go through the trouble of reporting whether or not you pay your rent on time. Building your credit reputation requires different kinds of loans and a long history of paying them on time.
Think of it this way; your credit history acts as a resumé for whether or not banks and financial institutions want to do business with you. They want to see if you are dependable when it comes to paying back different loans. Do you pay your car payments on time? Do you pay your mortgage when it's due? Questions such as these determine if you are able to finance with them.
Key Considerations When Finding a Credit Report Site
Are you wondering why you should enroll in a credit report service if you have the choice to receive your credit score and report annually? The biggest advantage lies in the host of additional features you receive as part of your enrollment package. These include things like financial alerts, identity protection, credit monitoring and so on.
These features are important because they are safety measures to prevent inaccurate details from showing up under your information, fraudulent charges from thieves, and a comprehensive snapshot of your financial affairs. Assess the five organizations listed in this review and select the one which suits your needs most adequately. When examining your report pay close attention to these eight key indicators:
- A wide variety of plan options – Does your credit report site give you different payment options? Do they provide multiple features? Do they offer credit reporting? What other plans can they provide?
- Credit monitoring – How does your credit report site let you monitor your credit? Is there a way to track the history of your credit? Can you see what actions might affect your credit positively or negatively? How many different resources can they give you?
- Mobile app capabilities – Does your site have an app that can give you access to credit monitoring while you are on the go? Can you accurately monitor your credit on your tablet or smartphone? Can you access all your sites' features through their app?
- Identity protection service included – Can your credit report site offer you identity protection services in case someone steals your identity? Can they help you if someone has unauthorized access to your credit? Can they report identity theft to other financial institutions?
- FICO & VantageScore – How accurately can your site provide you with your FICO and VantageScore? Do they have tools to improve your rating?
- Additional educational resources to learn about the process – Can they offer you educational tools to help you become better at managing your credit? Do they offer you the financial education to be a more informed consumer? What videos and articles can they give you to help you learn more?
- One-time report option – Does your service provide a one-time report option? Can you sign up for a one-time service instead of paying monthly fees?
- Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion – Does your service provide you with access to information from all three major credit bureaus? Does it cost extra?
With consideration to the above factors, our choices for best credit report service include the TransUnion, as these sites offer a wealth of features and useful tools. You can read up on more information by looking through our articles related to credit reporting.
Equifax, Experian, and the TransUnion: Which Credit Report is Best?
The US has three national credit bureaus that constantly update and record consumer credit histories: Equifax, Experian, and the TransUnion. All three collect credit information in similar ways but may provide different credit scores. The reason being, they may have different things they look at for different methods of collecting information.
The best credit reporting agency will show all three scores. Some financial institutions may use scores from two bureaus and not the third. It is important to keep track of all three so that you know where you stand with all of them to give you the best credit reports possible. This could keep you from getting approved for certain loans.
Benefits of Using a Credit Score Site
Lenders use the credit reporting system to gauge your creditworthiness when you apply for a loan. Your credit report contains your credit score, which lenders use to calculate the interest rate you qualify for.
The credit reporting bureaus gather information on your credit history and sell it to lenders. Your creditors provide information about you to the bureaus via a standard electronic reporting system. The credit information is sold to mortgage lenders, credit card companies, landlords, banks, insurance companies, employers, and landlords. When you apply for a job, an apartment, credit, and insurance, businesses and lenders consider your credit report in their decision.
Credit Bureaus and Credit Report Services
Consumers are entitled to request a credit report from the three major credit bureaus each year, TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. There are also several credit reporting services offering a wide range of additional features above and beyond the annual report. These services help you keep your financial house in order. Here are profiles of the top credit report agencies featuring services like credit monitoring and identity theft protection.
Identity Theft Protection
Credit report services monitor your credit in order to protect against identity theft. With over ten million Americans affected by identity theft each year, it has become critical to keep an eye on your credit. Identity thieves have become adept at using technology to commit a crime, but also use old school techniques such as looking through discarded papers.
With the purchase of credit monitoring services, you gain peace of mind that your credit is under scrutiny for suspicious activity. While customer service varies from each company, most will contact you within 24 hours of unusual activity.
Before signing up with a credit report service, compare the offerings from several services to find the best fit for you, as each has its own bundle of features on offer.
Highly rated Experian offers an easy user interface, online dispute tool and unlimited access to your Experian report and credit score. They provide identity theft protection and customer service via text and email. A one-time credit report option is available too.
The scoring model used by Myfico is the most common lending model, that used by large lending institutions. They have a large library on credit matters, Identity theft protection and ongoing reports from credit bureau Equifax (but not the other two major credit bureaus). Customer service is good, with a highly qualified staff available to help with your questions and concerns.
The Creditera service offers real-time alerts, interactive credit score tools, identify theft protection and monthly reports. Their score summary tool puts your credit score in context with demographic information from consumers like you. Some of their features are aimed more at small business than individuals, but they are still highly rated.
Be sure to compare monthly rates from each service before purchasing. Certainly, you want identity theft protection from your service, but check each to see if they include access to information for all three major credit report bureaus. Keep in mind that consumers are eligible to receive a credit report each year from those three major bureaus.
Hard Inquiry vs. Soft Inquiry
You may be unfamiliar with the difference between a hard and soft credit inquiry so now is a good time to clear up any confusion. A hard inquiry is reported when you are actively trying to get credit. For example, taking out a car loan or a student loan would be considered a hard inquiry and that would affect your credit score. A soft inquiry, on the contrary, is created when you receive things like credit card offers and pre-approved 'promotional offers'. Also, inquiries on behalf of an insurance company or potential employer are also typically ignored when your score is calculated.
For example, taking out a car loan or a student loan would be considered a hard inquiry and that would affect your credit score. A soft inquiry, on the contrary, is created when you receive things like credit card offers and pre-approved 'promotional offers'. Also, inquiries on behalf of an insurance company or potential employer are also typically ignored when your score is calculated.
Be Careful of Hard Inquiries
Hard inquiries into your credit are vital when you are trying to apply for certain types of loans. However, too many hard inquiries can cause damage to your score. A typical hard inquiry will decrease your score a few points. When you apply for multiple types of financing, this can greatly affect your score, as it can make you seem desperate or unable to qualify for credit.
Another thing to consider is that hard inquiries can be disputed, but only if they have been done without your permission. If you have authorized the hard inquiry, it can take up to two years to be removed from your credit report. Also, the best way to dispute them is to contact the credit bureau directly, as this will put in touch with the right people to help you.
So be careful when seeking out multiple sources for a new car, home, or student loan, as they can do more damage than you think.
How to Clean Up Your Credit
You can take effective ways to clean up your credit, no matter how tarnished it is. There are specific things you can do as a borrower, but other tasks require analytical savvy and you should seek the expertise of professionals. To give your credit its erstwhile polish, first determine your total debt and compare that amount to what lenders are reporting to the credit agencies. Then identify and fix potential errors, making sure you reach out to the right people.
As a borrower, you have rights and duties, so make sure to contact professionals like lawyers and debt consolidation specialists, among others, to determine what options are available to you. Once you clean up your credit, you can effectively control it by monitoring your credit profile continually and knowing your rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
1. How Do I Determine My Total Debts?
To calculate your total debt, use an Excel spreadsheet or other types of templates and list things like the lender, amount owed, average interest payment and type of debt. Also, indicate the monthly payment and outstanding balance. You can use an online resource like the debt management tool provided by the nonprofit InCharge Debt Solutions.
You can also contact your bank account manager and ask him or her whether the bank has a tool to calculate and track personal debts. Go through your bills to determine your total debt payments. Also, pore over your bank statements to figure out those loans you pay electronically and for which the lenders don't send regular paper bills.
2. How Do I Know What's On My Credit Report?
By law, you have the right to receive a copy of your credit report every 12 months as long as you remain a U.S. citizen or legal resident and have sent a specific request to the credit agencies. Contact one of the top credit reporting agencies and request your credit report – it's called "statutory annual credit file disclosure," and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT Act) mandates that each agency grants your request. Remember that you can place a request via phone, online and by mail.
3. Are There Effective, Quick Ways to Fix Errors on My Credit Report?
There are two steps in disputing and fixing errors on your credit report. First, send a letter to the credit reporting agency, indicating what information you think is incorrect. Provide any supporting documentation, such as bank statements, debt-release paperwork, and correspondence you've had with lenders. In the letter, clearly state your name, address and each item you dispute. Use bullet points and break down each dispute by using words like "what," "who," "when" and "how much."
For example, if you disagree with the amount owed on a credit card account, clearly state what the dispute is about, who the lender is when the item under dispute originated, and how much money you think you don't owe. Send your letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you have proof it was delivered, who signed for it, and when it was delivered.
The credit reporting agency would investigate your claim, notify the other two agencies, and contact the respective service providers. It will contact you within 30 to 60 days, and if your claim is valid, it will send notices of correction to various parties – such as lenders, credit agencies, insurers, companies that may have denied you employment based on your credit report, and landlords.
The second step in disputing credit errors is sending a letter to the reporting lender or institution. Use the same approach and detail level you used when sending correspondence to the credit reporting agencies. Contact the lender to determine the best and quickest way to file a dispute. Service providers typically allow customers to file disputes over the phone, online and via mail.
After receiving your dispute, the lender will investigate it and notify you within 30 to 60 days. The creditor also will notify the credit reporting agencies of the pending dispute. If the lender finds that your claim is accurate – that is, you don't owe anything or not as much as reported - it will not report that debt again.
5. Who Can I Talk to for Help?
Contact your state or local consumer affairs bureau and ask them about resources available in areas like debt management, credit cleanup, credit correction and debt counseling.
You can also contact, and file a complaint with, the Federal Trade Commission, the agency in charge of promoting consumer protection and eliminating anti-competitive business and lending practices.
Seek the help of a nonprofit specialized in credit report cleanup; alternatively, you can reach out to a for-profit debt management company. Contact your state's Department of Financial Services or the Better Business Bureau's local branch in your residence area. Give priority to debt organizations that are registered with state officials and the BBB.
Get legal representation, especially if the amount under dispute is substantial. Seek a lawyer who is familiar with the intricacies of debt management and has covered cases of credit cleanup in the past.
6. What Are My Rights?
As a consumer, you have several rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. For example, if a company uses credit information against in an insurance, employment or credit decision, you must be notified. The same requirement applies if the credit reporting agencies discover and/or fix inaccurate data in your credit report. You also have the right to know your credit report's contents. Other restrictions touch on how much and what others can see in your credit file, the fact that your consent is required before certain disclosures, and your right to sue someone who violates the law by accessing your file and using its contents without your approval.
You can clean up your credit and gradually control it if you know your rights and talk to the right people, especially those versed in the subtleties of debt management, settlement, and consolidation. To make the cleanup effort a success, you should also know what is in your credit report and fix whatever inaccuracies it might contain.
Tips & Advice
Before you make a decision on what credit report service to use, make sure to check out our advice guides to get all the information you need. We offer plenty of great resources to answer your credit questions and we'll teach you everything you need to know about credit. Here are some examples:
- What are the best ways to improve your credit? Can adding a small personal loan help improve your credit? Believe it or not, there are plenty of solutions to increasing your credit score.
- Can you get an accurate credit report? There are plenty of ways to get an accurate credit report that can save you up to $200 a month. You don't have to break the bank to get quality credit reporting services.
- How important is it to monitor your credit? Monitoring your credit regularly can benefit you in a variety of ways and help you make sure that your finances are safe.
- What are some myths and misconceptions about building your credit? You may have some of the wrong information about how to build your credit, due to some faulty information. Luckily, we provide an antidote to the bevy of bad credit reporting.
- Is applying for joint credit a good idea for you and your partner? Joint credit can be a good idea for couples who know how to save and spend, but there are many things that can go wrong if you're both not on the same page.
- How caclean upleanup your bad credit and fix errors on your report? Are there quick, effective ways to fix your credit? What rights do you have when it comes to knowing what's on your credit report?
Review these five companies once more before enrolling with one over the other. They all have their advantages and disadvantages-some more significant than others. Opt for one that provides your credit score from the three main credit bureaus, has an affordable monthly rate, and includes extras like identity theft protection and monitoring. Remember you are also eligible to receive an annual credit report and credit score from all three of the major bureaus.
If you've looked up your score and you are struggling with bad credit, take a look at the best credit repair services. They might be able to help you, especially if you are trying to qualify for a loan.
Many lenders highly weight credit scores; however, the best personal loan companies have created application processes that look at more than just your credit.