Improving your credit is a great way to better your overall financial standing. But tackling this task first requires knowing where your credit stands.

Many of the online offers you see for free or $1 credit scores come with strings attached, which often involve a temporary trial for a credit-monitoring subscription program. These programs will likely run you $15-20 a month -- unless you cancel before that period ends.

Numerous sites feature these offers, including those for the three credit-reporting bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. But it is possible to get your credit score and credit report online for free with less fuss -- if you know where to look.

Your credit score

There are sites where you can obtain your credit score without shelling out any money or enrolling in a credit-monitoring program, including:

  • Credit Sesame (CreditSesame.com): Upon answering some questions, including queries on your Social Security number and financial goals, up pops your credit score.
  • Credit Karma (CreditKarma.com): Your score displays after you provide data about yourself, including the last four digits of your Social Security number. Because it's free, you must agree to e-mail updates on your credit report and notices about your credit profile. Also, you'll receive e-mail offers from advertisers, but Credit Karma doesn't give your personal information to any third party.

Because these sites rely on advertising and product sales for their revenue, the information you receive will be free to you. But if you'd prefer to obtain all of your individual scores directly from the bureaus, each offers individual scores for a one-time fee:

  • TransUnion (TransUnion.com, 800-888-4213): $9.95 for credit score, $11.50 for credit report
  • Equifax (Equifax.com, 800-685-1111): $15.95 for credit score
  • Experian (Experian.com, 888-397-3742): $14.95 for credit report and score
  • FICO (myFICO.com, 800-319-4433): $19.95 for credit report and score

Because the bureaus appear to favor selling credit-monitoring programs over these types of one-off sales, finding these offers may require some searching on their sites.

Your credit report

Your credit report contains information about you and your credit habits, including how you pay your bills, what credit cards and debt you have, whether you've filed for bankruptcy and whether you've been sued or arrested. It can also show problems, such as outstanding debts you aren't aware you owe, that could be lowering your credit score. 
 

It's wise to review your credit report at least annually to check for identity theft and other inaccuracies, and this site offers free annual credit reports with no strings attached:

  • Annual Credit Report Request Service (AnnualCreditReport.com): The site, which is the result of federal rules that grants consumers free annual access to their credit reports, offers information from all three bureaus. You can request your reports online or by mail or phone. You'll have to provide personal information, including your Social Security number, but the process is generally quick and straightforward.

Then, with your credit report and score in hand, you can identify the steps needed to boost your score and strengthen your financial situation.

The original article can be found at SavingsAccounts.com:
Free and simple ways to view your credit