Building and maintaining good credit is a lifelong challenge, and one that can have significant impact on many facets of life, including securing a solid interest rate on a mortgage or car loan, or even getting that dream job with an employer who wants to make sure she’s hiring a responsible individual. So monitoring your credit report — ensuring that no one’s stolen your identity and that the information being reported about you is accurate — should be an ongoing financial goal.
Sites like the free AnnualCreditReport.com make it easy to check the details of your credit report — you can request one free report from each of three credit bureaus once per year — but until now, you’ve had to pay for your FICO score from sites like myFICO ($15.95/report or $8.95/month to monitor your score).
We all like free, so enter CreditKarma, a site that gives you your credit score free of charge — and it takes a whole two minutes or so to sign up, see your score, and get a letter grade in various categories, including the following:
- Open Credit Card Utilization
- Percent of On-Time Payments
- Average Age of Open Credit Lines
- Total Accounts
- Hard Credit Inquiries
- Total Debt
- Debt to Income Ratio
Here are my actual letter grades in a few of the categories (for the record, even though the first one shows 3% on credit card utilization, my wife and I pay off our credit card balance every month; we use a Southwest Airlines credit card for most purchases and bills to earn Rapid Rewards credits, so I’m guessing that 3% refers to our balance at any given time, even though it’s never carried over):
You can also see how you compare with others in your age group, state, and even email domain (e.g., I can see that my credit score puts me in a percentile higher than most in my age group (93.2%), and that Gmail users score among the highest percentile (88.5%), relative to other email domains).
It’s not your FICO score, the official number used by the credit reporting industry, but it’s pretty close and a good indication of where you stand. The number and credit reporting data come from TransUnion, one of the three major credit reporting agencies (Experian and Equifax being the other two).
It’s a great way to make sure your credit is in good standing, and it’s always fun to track data over time — to monitor improvement, to see how you stack up against others, and so on. You can login to CreditKarma as often as you’d like, though your score won’t actually update more than once per month.email or RSS feed. ]