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Finding Out Your Credit Report And Credit Score

Friday, January 16th, 2009 by

I was watching that web cast of Suze Orman just yesterday and boy did that open up some interesting moments such as that restaurant owner that is mad over the advice of not dining out for a month. But I’ll save that for another post as watching that web cast made me realize that a lot of people actually don’t know how to obtain their credit scores/credit reports. Figured it would be better to talk about that first since there was a discount offer too.

In a nutshell, a credit score is basically used as a way to determine your “credit worthiness” as it is based on how well you can mange your credit and finances. If you are the type of person that always pays your bills on time then you will have a higher score compared to someone who only pays the minimum or worst doesn’t pay their bills at all.

That way, the lender can determine whether or not you are responsible enough to give credit to. In some cases too, employers use this information to determine your suitability for a job. If you want a little more detail about what a report can show, I posted my own online credit report way back that you can see at my personal credit score and profile post.

Just for clarification too, there is a difference between a “Credit Report” and a “Credit Score”. The Credit report essentially has all of your personal details such as your contact information and job history. At the same time, if you have any type of existing credit (such as a credit card or mortgage) it will appear on your credit report. As well, any outstanding debt that you have.

A “Credit Score” is basically taking all that information from your credit report and putting a number to it in order to show the lender your “risk level” in giving you credit. A low score means you are a risky person to give credit to as you are not likely to pay them back whereas a high score shows the opposite. A score usually ranges from 300 to 900 in Canada and 300 to 850 in the US. (People in the US often refer to the score as a “FICO score”)

While getting your credit report online is easier and more convenient, I’m surprised that web cast didn’t mentioned anything about how you can get it for free. (Especially for a segment that focused on helping people to save money). I believe the only difference between Canadian and US residents is that Canadian residents can get as many free credit reports as they wish when it comes to requesting for the report to be sent by mail.

While the process itself should be similar, I will use the Canadian system as the example (Since I am from Canada too). You would first have to choose a credit bureau to contact and here in Canada the two largest ones are TransUnion and Equifax.

Let’s use Equifax as an example. To obtain a free credit report, you would need to fill out a form such as this located at http://www.equifax.com/ecm/canada/EFXCreditReportRequestForm.pdf .

As you can see, it requires some very basic information such as your contact information along with a copy of two pieces of ID. Afterwards, you simply mail it off to the address listed and you can expect to get a report in the mail by 5 to 10 days. It’s actually that simple and you will receive a lot of insight to your credit history. This is the free way to get your report for those that need to save every penny.

For US readers, you can visit the website at annualcreditreport.com and obtain your free credit report that way.

Now the more convenient way is to simply order it online nowadays. Usually the fees can range from $9 to $15 to obtain a basic report and about $25 to get your score with it(Keep in mind too that your credit score could be slightly different between the credit bureaus).

While there are normally higher priced packages available, the main difference is that they usually provide you with more services such as giving you monthly reports as well as advise on how to improve your score. But for a person like myself that just wants the score and report, the basics is good enough. Here are some links to various providers where you can get them online:

Canada:

Equifax – The price to obtain an Equifax credit report is $15.50. Although, the “Score Power” package might be better for $23.95 as you will get your credit score with it.

TransUnion – You can get the report online for about $14.95 and with the score it is $22.90

US:

Equifax – While you can get the credit report only for about $11, I think getting the $15.95 option to get your FICO score as well is the better way to go. They do also have an option to get a report from all the three large bureaus at once (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian) and a monthly report plan for about $12.95/month.

Experian Triple Advantage – The company offers a monthly packaged deal costing $14.95 a month that grabs the score from all three credit bureaus. While it says free on the page, it is a free 7 day trial and so if you don’t want to pay you would need to cancel it before the promotional date expires.

TransUnion – They operate a brand called “Truecredit” where the service costs $14.95 a month and reports your credit score from the top three credit bureaus.

MyFicoScore.com – This was the one that Suze Orman was clamoring about on the Oprah Web Cast. Apparently until about January the 22, 2009, by using this link at http://www.myfico.com/Products/FICOKit/Description.aspx?lpid=SUZEWEB3&promocode=50FICOKIT you can get the FICO report package that is normally $49.95 for $24.97. Apparently the discount will apply automatically at the end of the transaction. From what I see, you are most paying a premium fee for her branded kit.

So hopefully that gives everyone some good ways to get your credit history. There is pretty much a good option for everyone to go with depending on your budget and needs.