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Your Credit Sore... Errr, Score!

By Will from Holland

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Your credit score rules your life in many ways. It can impact your job and possibly even your chance of being promoted. It determines what you pay in interest on virtually every purchase you finance. It may even determine what you pay for deposits (apartment, escrow, etc.) and insurance.

Monitoring credit scores on a regular basis is a very smart thing for every consumer to do.

Has got a bargain for you! I am 99.9% sure that you have heard of Am I right? You've probably seen or heard the company's catchy commercials.

The commercials are great. But unfortunately isn't truly "free". In my opinion (and in the opinion of many other consumer advocates), this company's commercials are actually misleading.

Read below and decide if you think it's "free".

First of all, you must sign up for a seven-day "trial" membership: Here, you're required to hand over your credit card details.

And here's the catch: you aren't signing up for seven days. You're signing up forever... unless you go to great effort to cancel your "trial" membership within the seven days. Otherwise, $14.99 a month goes down the drain (that's about $180 dollars a year for a "free" service).

Well, let's assume you are the type that doesn't mind dealing with companies that try to suck you in like this. You decide to sign up for their trial period with the intention of canceling before the trial ends.

Don't expect the cancellation process to be easy. First of all, it's virtually impossible to cancel online. Second, you're probably going to be stuck on the phone for a loooong time. A FoolProof staffer spent about 45 minutes on the phone trying to cancel. Slick sales people do everything this side of twisting your arm to talk you out of canceling.

So is this illegal? No, it's marketing. That means you have to pay attention and read the fine print to avoid spending unnecessary money.

Do you have to put up with bologna like this to get your credit score for free?

Definitely not. Use instead!

If you REALLY want to see a catchy jingle video about "free" credit reports, watch this cool—and honest—video from the Federal Trade Commission. is the only authorized source where you can receive your report for free. Each of the three major credit-reporting bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax and Experian) is required to give you one free copy each year.

What's the smart way to use the real "free" credit report website?

First of all, if you're in the credit market, we think it is smart to check your credit report more than once a year.

Do it like this: get a free report from one of the credit bureaus now. Then, in four months, get a free report from one of the other two. Then in four more months, get a free report from the last bureau.

Are the free credit reports easy to understand?
No. In our opinion, the credit reporting bureaus deliberately make the free reports hard to understand. Here's why: each of the bureaus wants you to buy a different version of your report, one that is easier to understand. Nice of them! But if you take your time, you'll eventually be able to make sense out of the free report.

A tip: if you find these reports hard to understand, be sure to make an appointment with somebody at your credit union. They will be delighted to help you understand your report for free—no strings attached!

Lastly, am I being unfair to ""?
You decide. If you think I'm being unfair, Google "problems with free credit" and see for yourself.

Alrighty, that's it for me. Below I'll give you a little more info on what a credit report or score is, along with other useful FoolProof links.

Cheers, Will.

Additional Info & Links:

  • What is a credit report?
    Detailed information about your credit history, including late payments, credit accounts, loans, etc. This report can be obtained by lenders with the your permission (or sometimes without!) to determine the your creditworthiness.
  • Want to really understand credit and credit reports?
    Work through our "Fast Facts" on credit!
    Be sure to check out the "Understanding Credit" and "Pointers & Pitfalls" sections.
  • Interested in building better credit?
    Read this article: How to Build Good Credit.