Start 2019 Right and Check your Credit
It’s a new year, and that means that it’s another chance to push towards your goals! I spoke about our goals for 2019 in our last net worth update, but I wanted to get a little deeper into what I’m actively doing to get us closer to our goal of retiring early, financial freedom, and investing in real estate.
There’s a lot that goes into credit. To most people, it’s a number that gets brought up occasionally, generally around a big purchase, like a car or a house. To me, it’s something that I want to understand better and to figure out what really affects it. I have a CreditKarma account which I feel is a great first start, but I’ve recently learned that the numbers that CreditKarma pulls aren’t your actual credit score. The numbers that CreditKarma uses are actually based on formula’s that aren’t true credit scores. This doesn’t mean that the numbers and tracking benefits of CreditKarma are useless, but it’s worth knowing what your actual score is.
Just today I just filled out a form to get my free credit report from Equifax. It was surprisingly easy to do and I was impressed to see that I could get the entire process finished online. This is the first time I’m actually pulling my own credit report and I’m excited to see what will actually show up on it. Since there are three credit bureaus, and we’re not planning a big purchase any time soon, I’ve set reminders in my calendar to pull the other two bureau’s reports in four, and eight months. This will allow me to check out record three times a year!
To get your record you only need to do the following:
1) Visit www.annualcreditreport.com
2) Click on “Request your free credit reports” on the bottom of the screen.
3) Fill out the appropriate information (They will ask for your social security number, so if this is something that bothers you, you should know that before getting into that).
NOTE: You won’t have to pay for anything on the credit bureau sites, so if you find yourself at a credit card prompt, you’ve gone the wrong way!
Your report will kick out in a .PDF, so I threw mine in my Google Drive and I plan to keep them all there. If you do want the actual number, you’ll want to use a service that will give you a FICO score. The main thing is that FICO piece, for instance, CreditKarma doesn’t use your FICO, so it’s not as reliable. You can pay the fee on the website above to see your score, but you’re also able to get a free FICO score from Discover, (and you don’t even need to have an account with them).
To give you an example of FICO vs CreditKarma - CreditKarma says that currently my credit score is 764, but my FICO through Discover says that I’m at 797. Both scores are decent, so I don’t have a lot to worry about, but in the real world a difference of 30 points like that can drastically affect available credit lines!
My favorite part of the Discover site is that they have a big FAQ at the bottom of the page that explains much more about different credit score factors that I found interesting to learn.
What do I do if there’s an error?
Don’t worry! There’s official channels to dispute the information directly with each of the three bureaus. Luckily for me, I haven’t come across that scenario, but here’s the links to dispute errors with each of the three:
Now just monitor
Now that you know where and how to actually get your credit info, it’s time to monitor that data and protect it! The next time Mrs Money Smith and I go to buy a house, we’ll certainly need to make sure our credit score’s are good, so we might as well keep it in check until then. Most credit card companies actually monitor your information for you, and will let you know of suspicious activity. I have credit monitoring turned on with just about every possible option I can, but the two main options that I would suggest, and are free, are CreditKarma and Mint. (Mint actually sent me an email today about our new address, which is what sparked this blog topic).
In my digging today, I also found a great resource to opt-out of pre-screened offers. This is huge for us, because I get so many offers mailed to me every month, that I don’t even bother opening. The process was super smooth and available to complete right online, and lasts for a five year period! (You can opt-out forever if you print a form and mail it in)
The process for that was:
Scroll to the bottom of the page and click the blue “click here to opt-in or opt-out” button.
Follow the prompts (Same as before, the site will ask for your social security number).
Not only will this cut down on the crazy clutter of spam mail that we receive each week, but it will also help me feel better by cutting down on the number of trees we’re killing to make all those obnoxious pre-approval letters.
Do yourself a favor and follow all of these links to get yourself set up correctly for 2019 and beyond. I would imagine you can complete each of these processes in under 30 minutes combined. It will help you in staying focused on your real goals, and will help to prevent you from having to deal with learning you’ve been a victim of identity theft when you least want to. Since the world of credit is so new and exciting to me, I’d love to hear other ways that you’ve got for dealing with credit monitoring and preventing annoying nuisances in your life. Leave any tips of questions in the comments below.