Complete Guide to FREE Credit Scores, Reports, and Monitoring… for credit card bonus hunting

Please find an updated version of this post here: Complete Guide to Free Credit Scores, Reports, and Monitoring… for credit card bonus hunting.


If you often sign up for credit cards in order to earn huge signup bonuses, then you’ve probably realized that managing your credit is important. And it’s not just your credit score that’s important — it’s also good to know the details of your credit report and to be alerted when new hard inquiries are made. Chase’s dreaded 5/24 Rule is a good example of this.  Chase will often decline an applicant if he or she has opened 5 or more credit cards with any bank in the past 24 months.  So, it’s a good idea to know how to count your 5/24 status.

The Basics

Three credit bureaus: In the US, there are three credit bureaus that banks can use to request your credit report: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Some banks pull from just one bureau.  Some pull from two.  Some pull from all three.  And they’re not always consistent.  Depending upon where you live, banks may vary which credit bureau(s) they pull from.

5/24 statusScores: Most lenders use your FICO Score to help determine whether or not to extend new credit to you.  According to myFICO, scores take into account the following factors:

  • 35% Payment History: Always pay your bills on time!
  • 30% Amounts Owed: Try not to use anywhere near all of your available credit
  • 15% Length of Credit History: The longer the better. Don’t get rid of your oldest cards!
  • 10% New Credit: When you open many new accounts, it can affect your score negatively
  • 10% Credit Mix: It’s good to have a mix of loans: credit cards, car loan, mortgage, etc.

Inquiries: When you request a new card, the credit issuer almost always issues a “hard” inquiry rather than a soft inquiry.  A hard inquiry (a “hard pull”) will usually have a small temporary negative effect on your credit score.  Even if your score doesn’t decrease, too many hard inquiries can hurt your chances of getting a new credit card because it looks like you’re desperate for credit.  Soft inquiries have no effect.

Tip 1: Hard Inquiries appear only on the credit report of the bureau that handled the inquiry.  This means that you will likely have different numbers of inquiries showing on each credit report.  By keeping track of which credit bureau each bank uses for your applications, it may be possible to spread out the inquiries across bureaus so that no single bureau shows too many.

Tip 2: Inquiries “hurt” much less as time goes by.  After 90 days, the negative effect is minimal.  After 6 months, hard inquiries are barely considered.  And, after 24 months they fall off your credit report altogether.

Accounts: When you are approved for a new card, it becomes a new account on your credit reports. Most if not all major banks report accounts to all three bureaus.  They report the open date, close date (if applicable), current balance each month, current credit limit, whether or not you missed payments, etc.

Tip 1: The status of your revolving credit accounts is much more important to your credit score than number of inquiries.  Make sure to pay your all of your accounts on time.

Tip 2: Having more accounts can help your credit score.  30% of your score is your credit utilization ratio.  The larger your total credit limit, the better your utilization ratio should be.  In most cases, more cards means having a higher limit and therefore a better utilization ratio.

Tip 3: Unlike inquiries, accounts usually show up on all three credit bureaus.

FREE Credit Scores, Reports, and Monitoring

Ideally you would have ready access to your scores, accounts (credit report details), and inquiries from all three bureaus.  And, ideally, all three bureaus would be monitored: you would be alerted when new inquiries are made or new accounts added to your reports.  And, of course, all of this would ideally be free.  Here’s how…

In most cases there are a number of options for free scores, reports, and/or monitoring.  Many tools offer free FAKO credit scores (these are estimates of FICO scores), but I wanted to find free options for real FICO scores.  I’ve picked the options that I think will be most accessible to most readers:

Equifax

Free Equifax FICO Score from Citi 2

Experian

Free Experian FICO Score from Discover

TransUnion

Free TransUnion FICO Score from Discover

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Comments

    • Citi bank ,Chase and Discover used to do back in the day. I don’t know if they still doing. Look it up at credit forums boards.
      Good luck

  1. I noticed yesterday, while checking my EX report, that the “Open Date” listed defaulted to the 1st of the month that I applied for a card. Not the actual MM/DD/YY that I applied. This is pertinent to me bc this week I just got the denial letter for CSR due to “too many new accounts.” If those credit cards fall off the 24 rolling months based on EX, I am 4/24 as of today and can call recon. But if the 24 rolling months are based on MM/DD/YY then I have to wait a couple of weeks. Do you think I’m safe to call recon today? I think Chase pulled both EX and TU on me, and I think TU reports MM/DD/YY.

    I also am AU on 2/24, so technically I’m 6/24 but I’m hoping they will not count the AU against me. Incidentally, I also noticed that EX back-dated the AU “Open Dates” to the 1st of the month that DH applied for the card and not MM/DD/YY that I added myself as AU. Just a little data point to share.

  2. I have about 11,000 in credit card owed fees totally. I pay on time with 100percent on time payments and no inquires and no negatives. However I have two public judgemetnts against me one one on jan 2014 and the other in on jan 2015 for the leasing comp for my rental apt which I payed completely and have been living In for 32years.-
    My credit score is only 620
    Is there anyway I can remove this from my credit report and also improve my credit score?
    I do not own any properties nor vehicles.
    I check my credit score and credit report through
    Quizzle and Capital One bank

  3. Great topic!

    If a bank (like Citi) does not require an AU’s SSN, how does adding a person as an AU help his credit history, which I believe is associated to one’s SSN?

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