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Free Credit Score Guide: How To Check Your FICO and VantageScore At No Cost

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Your credit score is a three-digit number that wields incredible power. It can make or break a credit card application. It determines what interest rates you pay on loans. If you want to rent an apartment, the landlord will likely run a credit check. Your credit score can even affect the cost of your auto insurance policy.

Clearly, you need to know your score ― and whether it’s in good shape.

There are many companies that provide access to your credit score, according to Frederic Huynh, a former lead data scientist at FICO and current vice president of credit risk analytics with Freedom Financial Network. However, they often require you to sign up for their services and pay a monthly or annual fee.

But these days, there’s no need to pay. Huynh said there are a number of banks, credit unions and credit card issuers that offer credit score access at no cost. Here’s how to see yours for free.

How To Check Your FICO Credit Score For Free

According to FICO, a data analytics company that provides credit score services, more than 90 percent of lenders use the FICO score when making lending decisions. So if you’re interested in checking your credit score, you should start by looking up your FICO score.

The only catch: You actually have more than one FICO score ― dozens, in fact. Since the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) collect and report your credit information independently, FICO creates a separate score for you using each bureau’s data. That means you have a different FICO score for each bureau, all of which can vary depending on what information each bureau has.

There are also several versions of the FICO score, including the latest update known as FICO 9 and the upcoming UltraFICO. However, the version most commonly used by lenders today is the FICO 8, which is what most free FICO providers will show you. Even so, some provide alternate versions of the FICO score.

Below is a list of major financial institutions and websites that allow you to see your FICO score for free. Most provide scores reported by a single credit bureau, so consider checking your score with more than one source in order to get a well-rounded picture of your credit health.

The My Credit Guide by American Express allows cardholders to view their TransUnion FICO score and credit report for free by logging into the Amex online banking platform. Users also get access to credit monitoring alerts and a credit score simulator that shows how different actions could impact their scores.

Bank of America provides its credit card holders free online access to their FICO scores, which are based on TransUnion data and updated monthly. Cardholders can also track their credit score history and learn more about credit improvement strategies via BofA’s Better Money Habits publication.

Barclaycard customers can access their free FICO scores by logging into their online banking portals. Scores are based on TransUnion data.

Chase Slate cardholders have access to their FICO scores as an added card benefit. Scores are updated monthly and based on TransUnion data.

Citi currently offers FICO score access to select cardholders. It offers the FICO 8 Bankcard Score, which is a bit different than the traditional FICO. This version of the FICO score weighs credit card usage more heavily than other types of credit and uses a broader scoring range of 250-900 (versus 300-850 for the FICO). Scores are based on Equifax data.

The Credit Scorecard by Discover is a tool available to everyone who signs up, not just Discover cardholders. Credit score data is provided by Experian.

7. FreeCreditScore.com By Experian

Previously a paid service, this website owned by Experian now provides access to your FICO score and Experian credit report for free. Users who sign up on the website can also dispute credit report errors directly from the site.

Wells Fargo provides eligible customers access to its Experian FICO scores online. In addition to your score, Wells Fargo also provides your credit score history and personalized tips to improve it.

How To Check Your VantageScore For Free

Though FICO is the most widely used credit score, other scoring models exist. For instance, there’s Experian’s proprietary PLUS score, as well as FICO’s competitor, the VantageScore. Often, these non-FICO scores are referred to as “educational scores” since they’re meant to give you an idea of your overall creditworthiness but aren’t necessarily used by lenders.

Even so, according to VantageScore, 2,200 financial institutions used more than 6 billion of its scores between July 2016 and June 2017. So in addition to your FICO score, it’s worth checking out your VantageScore, too.

Fortunately, there several services that let you see your VantageScore for free. Often, scores are updated weekly, and many of these tools also provide free credit monitoring services and alerts.

The CreditWise tool from Capital One is open to anyone who signs up. Scores are based on TransUnion data.

Non-Slate Chase customers can see their TransUnion VantageScore and credit report for free via the Credit Journey platform.

Credit education site Credit.com offers users the ability to sign up and access their VantageScore from Experian for free.

One of the first free credit score sites, Credit Karma provides users with their VantageScores and credit reports from both Equifax and TransUnion.

Similar to Credit Karma, Credit Sesame offers many of the same free credit monitoring services, including access to your VantageScore from TransUnion.

Online loan aggregator LendingTree offers TransUnion VantageScores to users who sign up for its free credit score tool.

This popular budgeting tool has a built-in credit score feature that lets you see your TransUnion VantageScore for free.

Personal finance site NerdWallet offers a free credit score feature. Users can sign up to get their TransUnion VantageScore score for free.

Another online tool similar to Credit Karma and Credit Sesame, Quizzle provides free VantageScores from TransUnion.

The CreditCheck service from USAA provides members with their monthly Experian VantageScore and a yearly Experian credit report at no cost.

Finally, you can sign up with personal finance site WalletHub for access to your TransUnion VantageScore for free.

But Wait … Is It Bad To Check Your Own Credit Score?

A common credit myth is that checking your own score can ding your credit. The truth is you can check your credit reports and scores as often as you like with no impact to your credit score.

“Checking your own credit has no effect on credit reports or scores, as it is considered a soft inquiry,” Huynh said. He explained that soft inquiries happen when you check your own credit, a company checks your credit report as part of a background check or a lender pre-approves you for a credit card or loan.

The bottom line: there’s no excuse to avoid checking your credit score. Just keep in mind that scores can change day to day. “So don’t obsess over small changes,” Huynh said. “Rather, note the trend over a period of months.”

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4 things kids need to know about money

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(NC) Responsible spending includes knowing the difference between wants and needs. Back-to-school season, with added expenses and expectations around spending, is the perfect time to not only build your own budget for the year ahead, but also to introduce your own children to the concept of budgeting.

The experts at Capital One break down four basic things that every child should know about money, along with tips for bringing real-life examples into the conversation.

What money is. There’s no need for a full economic lesson,but knowing that money can be exchanged for goods and services, and that the government backs its value, is a great start.
How to earn money. Once your child understands what money is, use this foundational knowledge to connect the concepts of money and work. Start with the simple concept that people go to work in exchange for an income, and explain how it may take time (and work) to save for that new pair of sneakers or backpack. This can help kids develop patience and alleviate the pressure to purchase new items right away that might not be in your budget.
The many ways to pay. While there is a myriad of methods to pay for something in today’s digital age, you can start by explaining the difference between cash, debit and credit. When teaching your kids about credit, real examples help. For instance, if your child insists on a grocery store treat, offer to buy it for them as long as they pay you back from their allowance in a timely manner. If you need a refresher, tools like Capital One’s Credit Keeper can help you better understand your own credit score and the importance of that score to overall financial health.
How to build and follow a budget. This is where earning, spending, saving and sharing all come together. Build a budget that is realistic based on your income and spending needs and take advantage of banking apps to keep tabs on your spending in real-time. Have your kids think about how they might split their allowance into saving, spending and giving back to help them better understand money management.

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20 Percent Of Americans In Relationships Are Committing Financial Infidelity

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Nearly 30 million Americans are hiding a checking, savings, or credit card account from their spouse or live in partner, according to a new survey from CreditCards.com. That’s roughly 1 in 5 that currently have a live in partner or a spouse.

Around 5 million people — or 3 percent — used to commit “financial infidelity,” but no longer do.

Of all the respondents, millennials were more likely than other age groups to hide financial information from their partner. While 15 percent of older generations hid accounts from their partner, 28 percent of millennials were financially dishonest.

Regionally, Americans living in the South and the West were more likely to financially “cheat” than those living in the Northeast and Midwest.

Insecurity about earning and spending could drive some of this infidelity, according to CreditCards.com industry analyst Ted Rossman.

When it comes to millennials, witnessing divorce could have caused those aged 18-37 to try and squirrel away from Rossman calls a “freedom fund”.

“They’ve got this safety net,” Rossman said. They’re asking: “What if this relationship doesn’t work out?”

As bad as physical infidelity

More than half (55 percent) of those surveyed believed that financial infidelity was just as bad as physically cheating. That’s including some 20 percent who believed that financially cheating was worse.

But despite this, most didn’t find this to be a deal breaker.

Over 80 percent surveyed said they would be upset, but wouldn’t end the relationship. Only 2 percent of those asked would end the relationship if they discovered their spouse or partner was hiding $5,000 or more in credit card debt. That number however is highest among those lower middle class households ($30,000-$49,999 income bracket): Nearly 10 percent would break things off as a result.

Roughly 15 percent said they wouldn’t care at all. Studies do show however that money troubles is the leading cause of stress in a relationship.

That’s why, Rossman says, it’s important to share that information with your partner.

“Talking about money with your spouse isn’t always easy, but it has to be done,” he said. “You can still maintain some privacy over your finances, and even keep separate accounts if you and your spouse agree, but you need to get on the same page regarding your general direction, otherwise your financial union is doomed to fail.”

With credit card rates hovering at an average of 19.24 percent APR, hiding financial information from a partner could be financially devastating.

But, Rossman adds, it’s not just about the economic impact but also the erosion of trust.

“More than the dollars and cents is that trust factor,” he said. “I think losing that trust is so hard to regain. That could be a long lasting wedge.”

Kristin Myers is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.

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7 Examples Of Terrible Financial Advice We’ve Heard

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Between television, radio, the internet and well-meaning but presumptuous friends and family, we’re inundated with unsolicited advice on a daily basis. And when it comes to money, there’s a ton of terrible advice out there. Even so-called experts can lead us astray sometimes.

Have you been duped? Here are a few examples of the worst money advice advisers, bloggers and other personal finance pros have heard.

1. Carry a balance to increase your credit score.

Ben Luthi, a money and travel writer, said that a friend once told him that his mortgage loan officer advised him to carry a balance on his credit card in order to improve his credit score. In fact, the loan officer recommended keeping the balance at around 50 percent of his credit limit.

“This is the absolute worst financial advice I’ve ever heard for several reasons,” Luthi said. For one, carrying a credit card balance doesn’t have any effect on your credit at all. “What it does do is ensure that you pay a high interest rate on your balance every month, neutralizing any other benefits you might get from the card,” Luthi explained. “Also, keeping a 50 percent credit utilization is a surefire way to hurt your credit score, not help it.”

Some credit experts recommend keeping your balance below 30 percent of the card limit, but even that’s not a hard-and-fast rule. Keeping your balance as low as possible and paying the bill on time each month is how you improve your score.

2. Avoid credit cards ― period.

Credit cards can be a slippery slope for some people; overspending can lead to a cycle of debt that’s tough to escape.

But avoiding credit cards on principle, something personal finance gurus like Dave Ramsey push hard, robs you of all their potential benefits.

“Credit cards are a good tool for building credit and earning rewards,” explained personal finance writer Kim Porter. “Plus, there are lots of ways to avoid debt, like using the card only for monthly bills, paying off the card every month and tracking your spending.”

If you struggle with debt, a credit card is probably not for you. At least not right now. But if you are on top of your finances and want to leverage debt in a strategic way, a credit card can help you do just that.

3. The mortgage you’re approved for is what you can afford.

“The worst financial advice I hear is to buy as much house as you can afford,” said R.J. Weiss, a certified financial planner who founded the blog The Ways to Wealth. He explained that most lenders use the 28/36 rule to determine how much you can afford to borrow: Up to 28 percent of your monthly gross income can go toward your home, as long as the payments don’t exceed 36 percent of your total monthly debt payments. For example, if you had a credit card, student loan and car loan payment that together totaled $640 a month, your mortgage payment should be no more than $360 (36 percent of $1,000 in total debt payments).

“What homeowners don’t realize is this rule was invented by banks to maximize their bottom line ― not the homeowner’s financial well-being,” Weiss said. “Banks have figured out that this is the largest amount of debt one can take on with a reasonable chance of paying it back, even if that means you have to forego saving for retirement, college or short-term goals.”

4. An expensive house is worth it because of the tax write-off.

Scott Vance, owner of taxvanta.com, said a real estate agent told him when he was younger that it made sense to buy a more expensive house because he had the advantage of writing off the mortgage interest on his taxes.

But let’s stop and think about that for a moment. A deduction simply decreases your taxable income ― it’s not a dollar-for-dollar reduction of your tax bill. So committing to a larger mortgage payment to take a bigger tax deduction still means paying more in the long run. And if that high mortgage payment compromises your ability to keep up on other bills or save money, it’s definitely not worth it.

“Now, as a financial planner focusing on taxes, I see the folly in such advice,” he said, noting that he always advises his client to consider the source of advice before following it. ”Taking tax advice from a Realtor is … like taking medical procedure advice from your hairdresser.”

5. You need a six-month emergency fund.

One thing is true: You need an emergency fund. But when it comes to how much you should save in that fund, it’s different for each person. There’s no cookie-cutter answer that applies to everyone. And yet many experts claim that six months’ worth of expenses is exactly how much you should have socked away in a savings account.

“I work with a lot of Hollywood actors, and six months won’t cut it for these folks,” said Eric D. Matthews, CEO and wealth adviser at EDM Capital. “I also work with executives in the same industry where six months is overkill. You need to strike a balance for your work, industry and craft.”

If you have too little saved, a major financial blow can leave you in debt regardless. And if you set aside too much, you lose returns by leaving the money in a liquid, low-interest savings account. “The generic six months is a nice catch-all, but nowhere near the specific need of the individual’s unique situation… and aren’t we all unique?”

6. You should accept your entire student loan package.

Aside from a house, a college education is often one of the biggest purchases people make in their lifetimes. Often loans are needed to bridge the gap between college savings and that final tuition bill. But just because you’re offered a certain amount doesn’t mean you need to take it all.

“The worst financial advice I received was that I had to accept my entire student loan package and that I had no other options,” said Gina Zakaria, founder of The Frugal Convert. “It cost me a lot in student loan debt. Now I tell everyone that you never have to accept any part of a college financial package that you don’t want to accept.” There are always other options, she said.

7. Only invest in what you know.

Even the great Warren Buffett, considered by many to be the best investor of all time, gets it wrong sometimes. One of his most famous pieces of advice is to only invest in what you know, but that might not be the right guidance for the average investor.

In theory, it makes sense. After all, you don’t want to tie up your money in overly complicated investments you don’t understand. The problem is, most of us are not business experts, and it’s nearly impossible to have deep knowledge of hundreds of securities. “Diversification is key to a good portfolio, and investing in what you know leads to a very un-diversified portfolio,” said Britton Gregory, a certified financial planner and principal of Seaborn Financial. “Instead, invest in a well-diversified portfolio that includes many companies, even ones you’ve never heard of.”

That might mean enlisting the help of a professional, so make sure it’s one who has your best interests at heart.

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