questionswhat is your best tool for credit monitoring?

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Due to some ridiculous identity theft case from Disney stockholders (my grandpa bought me 3 shares when I was a baby...) I got signed up for this monitoring service for 2 years. Not so helpful that I don't remember who it was, but I did learn some good tips:

-Checking your own report does not count against you, even though lenders sometimes try to tell you it does
-Too many businesses/lenders/banks checking your report can raise a red flag (why are you applying for so much, are you in trouble?)
-Open an account and stick with it...length of time with an account can count for a lot...bouncing around with new mortgage lenders or balance transfers can also raise red flags
-On that note don't open too many accounts...but don't always close a CC account just because you don't use it - that unused credit can help your score
-Debt to credit ratio is important...if you carry revolving balances, try not to go over 50% of your credit limit (I'm screwed on this because of student loans)

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In order to build up your credit rating you are going to have to get a loan and pay it back on time. Car loan will work well here. Paying off the credit cards every month is full is smart financial sense, but doesn't do much for you credit rating. They don't like us to do that.

Best way to monitor your credit rating is here:
https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp

Note: this is a FREE way to get your credit report. As the result of a DOJ settlement, the 3 majors must give you a copy of your credit report every year. Since there are 3, you can get one every 4 months. These don't include your FICO score, but if you are interested in that for a "nominal fee" they will include this in your report as well.

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I find CreditKarma to be sufficient for my needs.

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Credit karma is amazing used in conjunction with your 3 free ones from each of the majors. IT gives you your fico score, and you can monitor it realtime pretty much. Every time you update it it counts as a "Soft" credit check and is impossible for anyone to know you did it unless you're credit karma.

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I agree that viewing your free Credit Reports is a good way to view your history and to make sure there are no fraudulent accounts under your name. I do this over paying for a service because it's free, and you can report and fix any fraud issues if there are any on your reports. As far as improving your score, you need some type of loan to pay on, whether that be a car loan or just an unsecured loan of a grand from the bank.While paying off credit cards and utilities is good for your score, it won't increase it to the 800+ rating.

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So I'm checking out creditkarma here at work and showed it to 2 of my somewhat older coworkers. They are both berating me about how untrustworthy it is. So silly. Interwebzsecurityfailz. I stopped myself when they told me the BBB is a bribery company. It is like arguing with a brick wall. /facepalm

Anyways, thanks! I had never heard of it but it seems like a really handy tool.

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To raise your credit score, you need to demonstrate that you can successfully manage credit. (Yeah, I know... duh.)

The single most important thing is to make all required (minimum) payments on time. Whether you run a balance or not has little to do with your credit rating.

Do not use more than about 30% of your credit limit on any account, eg. with a $10K limit, keep that card below $3k.

Keep your free accounts open, even if you rarely use them and do not need them. Closing your oldest account will ding you much more than closing your newest account.

Borrow some money with an installment loan (eg. a car loan) unless you already have some form of installment loan. This shows that you can deal with both fixed payment loans and credit card (revolving credit) loans.

With https://www.annualcreditreport.com you can get a free credit report every four months (once a year from each of the three Big Brothers). Be careful to use the correct URL (only this one is really free).

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stick with the free annual reports. Get one from one of the big 3 every 4 months. All the paid services are ripoffs.

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@meh3884: Just to be very clear, while I have no opinion one way or the other on the credit karma thing, BBB is a bribery thing. If you don't sign up, you'll get an F rating. You can buy your way out of a deserved bad rating. I don't trust their opinion on anyone.

I trust my neighbors; most of them are pretty smart. I trust many (but not all) of my friends.

I gently point out that the Credit Karma service does not actually provide all three major credit scores.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Credit_Karma

It only uses Transunion (the 3rd largest), and is missing Equifax and Experian. Equifax has been around the longest (I believe it was founded in the late 1800s), and Experian started out as a part of TRW. Experian has the longest reach (also operating in Europe and South America). The best thing you can do is to get your own credit reports, and check them for errors. All it takes is a mistake on one of them.

I may be back later...

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@shrdlu: Point taken on BBB (kind of sad, though, but now that you mention it I have seen some radical difference in reviews vs. BBB score).

When I did some research on Credit Karma, it was made pretty clear that the free score they provide is for reference and not what lenders are going to use, so use that for what you will. But for seeing numbers and looking through(read:ignoring) the credit card advertisements, I think there's some good value there. But definitely true I wouldn't bet the farm on anything it says (especially not it's credit card recommendations).

However, the inherent fear of credit scores/information is a little silly sometimes. It's like one of those taboo things people are so used to being kept secret by banks and lenders they can't believe they could catch a glimpse (several people I've told over the last 2 years that they can see their free report from annualcreditreport.com immediately told me it would hurt their credit). Oh well.

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@meh3884: Yeah, too bad about the BBB. I still don't see what value Credit Karma has, actually. I get my FICO score once a month (it's provided to me as a benefit of my account at Chase), and feel like that's plenty. If I'm concerned about anything in particular, I just call the financial manager, and have them check for any odd or outrageous entries. I don't normally worry too much about it.

Younger people should be concerned about their score. A lower score can cost thousands of dollars in interest over the life of a loan (because they aren't getting the best rates possible). I've had my American Express longer than some people on Deals have been alive. I got rid of another long term card when I was concerned about the long term viability of Citibank (although they seem to have finally pulled their feet out of the fire). I hate having an account sold off.

So it goes.

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@shrdlu: I don't get a FICO score (for free, I did pay for one once), the CK one will have to do (though at 22, in general, I know where I stand --- buy a house! or a car! your accounts are too young! meh!)

But what I mean when I say "fear" credit scores is more people who are afraid to look at their reports for fear of it negatively impacting their score or who are afraid to go to a website that is thoroughly reputable because of some unknown consequence. I have a friend here at work who won't buy anything online unless he's on his home machine (kind of understandable), but won't use online bill pay anywhere out of fear of identity theft. But that's another topic :D It actually seems to be the older crowd that has this innate fear when it comes to credit reports ;).

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@meh3884: If there are too many inquiries to your credit report, it can indeed hurt your credit. It took lawsuits to stop certain predatory credit card companies from hitting multiple reports, all the time (this was many years ago). I am VERY knowledgeable about computer security and about banking. Trust me in this.

I do not permit anyone to take money out of my account. I use online bill paying by preference, if the company I am paying is set up for it. If they are not, then the bank is just going to send them a check. I can write checks without the bank's assistance. Because I know how inherently dangerous the world is, unless I am using a VPN that I set up, I bank online ONLY from home.

Perhaps this "old crowd" you are referring to has experience that you do not.
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[1000 chars is NEVER enough]
@meh3884: Buying online is different. My info is already on Amazon, so it's just a matter of choosing which address to send something to. I wouldn't shop from work because those aren't MY computers. At home, the network is MINE. At work? Anyone could have installed a key logger.

Even if you're on your break, those resources still belong to your employer, and they may have chosen to install things, LEGALLY, that store everything you type. Creepy? Yep. Likely? Probably not, but I do want to point out the possibility.

I'm still also pointing out that the Credit Karma site is limited in the info it's providing. You still need to see those other two reports, and the FICO is different yet again.

{The FICO score is provided free with my account but I doubt it's generally available. Repeat after me: Banks are evil. All of them.}

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@shrdlu: There is a balance between knowing how dangerous something can be, like the internet, and not knowing enough about something and therefore assuming it must be very dangerous. That's my basic point, folks shouldn't write off doing something or looking into because it has to do with the internet and therefore must be dangerous. An extreme fear of all things internet I will always find silly. But the older folks I refer to probably don't have my experiences, and how could I expect them to? I've grown up with this crazy thing (and I work in IT I guess that counts too).

Anyways, I'll generally trust my work and home machine to do online shopping and home for banking. But to not do it at all, not because you know something could happen but rather you don't know if something could happen. Well, find out! Look into it a bit, no need to write it off the unknown because it is unknown. The internet is a resource first before it is a method for scamming folks.

End of day! Homeward!

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As others suggested, using Annual Credit Report is one way of doing it, though you'll need to poke around the report on your own to figure it all out.

Additionally, you'll need to stagger your reports and order one from each of the three credit bureaus every four months annually. The downside to this is that the credit bureaus report data differently, so you may miss things.

http://www.thetruthaboutcreditcards.com/why-credit-scores-are-different/

This kind of defeats the purpose of credit score monitoring to begin with obviously.

At the same time, paying for a service is a bit pricey as well. The best bet may be to use those reports and also sign up for companies like Credit Karma and Credit Sesame.

You'll get TransUnion and Experian data this way, so you'll at least have two of the three credit bureaus covered.

They aren't perfect, but they're free, and they will send you alerts each month, which works as a type of quasi-monitoring.