Mark Frauenfelder is the co-founder of my favorite sites, Boing Boing (which is a “directory of wonderful things”). Mark's also a GRS reader. He dropped me a line the other day to tell me about a new project he's been following.
Today, Credit.com is launching a free new online financial tool called Credit Report Card. This tool is designed to provide users with a quick snapshot of their credit reports. According to the site's FAQ, “it breaks down your credit report into five simple-to-understand categories and gives you a letter grade for each one.”
In his e-mail, Mark offered a personal example of how the service works:
Here's a screenshot of what a Credit Report Card looks like. It's my own credit report card. (I'm only showing part of the report card, as I don't want to share my personal data.) As you can see, I have excellent credit :), but I've made too many “Inquiries” in the past year, which has knocked my overall rating down a bit.
Interestingly, the day after I generated my Credit Report Card, I went to Macy's to buy a gift for my wife. The sales clerk wanted me to apply for a Macy's credit card, promising all sorts of discounts on this and future purchases. If I hadn't used Credit Report Card, I might have taken her up on the offer, which might have damaged my credit rating. So this tool has come in handy already.
Here are some things to know about Credit Report Card:
- It's absolutely free.
- You can request a new report card every thirty days.
- It draws its data from the TransUnion credit bureau.
- Its data comes via a “soft pull” of your credit, so using it will not affect your credit score.
Curious, I signed up for Credit Report Card myself. Some GRS readers will be wary because the sign-up process requires that you submit your Social Security Number (which is needed to pull your credit report) and asks a couple of broad but personal questions. I felt comfortable with this, though, and created an account.
My overall credit “grade” is an A. I scored high in the areas where I knew my report was strong, and I scored a little lower in the areas where I knew it was weaker. (Though I do have a personal credit card now, I try to avoid credit when possible, so I don't have as broad an “account mix” as I could.)
The bottom of the report contained a summary of the statistics used to produce the Credit Report Card. You can see that I spend about $1000 a month on my credit card, which I diligently pay in full. (This earns me about $10 a month because it's a 1% cash back card.)
Each section of the Credit Report Card also contains a detailed explanation of how your grade was derived. These sections contain a couple of paragraphs each explaining how credit scores work and recommending actions you can take to improve your credit.
The Credit Report Card isn't earth-shattering. It's not a tool that's going to revolutionize the way you deal with money. It is, however, a useful way to monitor your progress. I've added the site to my bookmarks, and I plan to check in every month or two when I'm doing my personal finances.