If you're trying to get a mortgage, take out a car loan, open a new credit card, rent an apartment or even find a new job, there's one thing that can make or break the whole deal. Yep, I'm talking about your credit report.
Do you know your credit score? Banks, loan companies, credit card companies, car dealerships, landlords and even your potential employers know it, and often make decisions based on it that affect your life. Not to mention that keeping an eye on your credit score can also help alert you to identity theft, which is especially important this Christmas season, when many of us use our credit cards to shop online.
That's why it's important to know your credit score and to improve it. But where should you go to find out? I know the best place to start.
Credit Karma's free score
Credit Karma tells you your credit score completely free, with no credit card needed. And it isn't just a one-time thing; you can look at your score regularly without any negative impact to your credit. The entire process takes less than 2 minutes.
Not only can you see your score, you can see how it compares to the national average and what elements are helping or hurting. You'll quickly know the areas you need to improve. Credit Karma even has free tips on ways to boost it.
In addition to your credit score, Credit Karma tells you how to access your federally mandated, yearly, free credit report, and goes a step further with free credit monitoring through TransUnion (regularly $15 a month).
So, if there's a major change on your credit report, you'll know about it right away. That's a good step to thwart identity thieves.
Be aware that the first time you request your credit score, Credit Karma will ask for your Social Security number. It only requires this to get your score the first time. However, Credit Karma says it never stores your SSN anywhere on its servers and keeps no records of what it is.
Additionally, all your communication and account information is encrypted to bank regulation standards. And Credit Karma says it won't share or sell it to third parties without your permission.
I know there are plenty of sites out there that promise you a free credit score and then try to charge or scam you. This isn't one of them; it's truly free, fast and easy.
Even better, Credit Karma has an app, too, so you can check your credit score on the go. Click here to get it now.
How to see your secret health credit reports
It's critical for your finances to stay on top of your credit score. But did you know that there's another type of credit report that you need to pay attention to? It's true. There's also a secret "health credit report" that could really impact your finances. Tap or click for your credit health report.