Did you know 26% of people find an error on at least one of their three credit reports?
That’s according to a 2012 Federal Trade Commission report, the most recent comprehensive study on the matter.
Sure, that sucks, but we’ve got to cut the credit bureaus a break. After all, they’re keeping tabs on millions of pieces of information.
That’s why it’s important for you to regularly check on your reports. Catching an error — and disputing it — will keep your credit report clean, and in turn, could potentially increase your score.
But it’s not just about the score. A messy credit report can negatively affect job opportunities, your ability to take out a loan or open a credit card, your insurance rates, your ability to rent and your utility deposits. Even cell phone providers can ask for hefty deposits upfront if your credit’s poor.
Additionally, playing detective and checking your credit reporting regularly could help you sniff out potential fraud or identity theft.
The Top 4 Free Credit-Monitoring Apps
Now the question is: What’s the best way to monitor your credit? There are gobs of products out there, but the key is that they be safe and user-friendly. And free. We like free.
Each of the big three credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — are required by law to let you access your credit report for free at least once every 12 months. However, many of us have trouble remembering to do that. Plus, a lot can happen in a year.
To help you keep a closer eye, here are your top four free credit-monitoring apps ranked based on ratings, report type, security and features.
First, a quick note: Because checking your credit report is a soft inquiry, it will not hurt your credit score. The hard inquiries are the ones you have to worry about.
Here’s a quick break down:
|iTunes App Rating*||Type of Report||Update Frequency|
|Credit Karma||4.7 stars||TransUnion and Equifax||Weekly|
|Credit Sesame||4.7 stars||TransUnion||Monthly|
*All app ratings accurate as of June 1, 2018.
OK, diving into the details now…
1. CreditWise® From Capital One®
iTunes rating: 4.8 stars with more than 90,000 ratings
Google Play rating: 4.6 stars with more than 24,000 ratings
Report pulled: TransUnion®
Report update frequency: Weekly
Security: Capital One has sophisticated fraud detection and security systems in place that actively monitor CreditWise profiles.
Features: Once exclusively available to Capital One customers, the CreditWise app (as Credit Tracker) is now free for everyone.
In addition to a weekly credit report and alerts via email and push notifications, you can tap into the app’s Credit Simulator. It lets you see how different actions could affect your credit score. Pay off $40,000 in debt? See how much your score could soar.
If you don’t know where to start to improve your credit, CreditWise also offers personalized recommendations.
Advertiser Disclosure: Capital One compensates us when you enroll in CreditWise using the link we provided above.
2. Credit Karma
iTunes rating: 4.7 stars with more than 26,000 ratings
Google Play rating: 4.7 stars with more than 685,000 ratings
Report pulled: TransUnion and Equifax
Report update frequency: Weekly
Security: 128-bit or higher encryption
Features: In addition to letting you check your credit report and sign up for credit-monitoring alerts, Credit Karma offers some other unique features. These include a credit score simulator, a free tax filing station and an unclaimed money search, which allows you to see whether the state is holding onto any money that belongs to you.
3. Credit Sesame
iTunes rating: 4.7 stars with more than 19,000 ratings
Google Play rating: 4.3 stars with more than 24,000 ratings
Report pulled: TransUnion
Report update frequency: Monthly
Security: Credit Sesame uses 256-bit encryption services.
Features: Credit Sesame offers a number of membership options, but the free one grants you access to your credit score and a credit “report card.” This is essentially your credit report but broken down in easy-to-understand terms.
The report card also highlights tips and tricks to help you clean up your credit report and increase your score. Additionally, the free account allows you to sign up for daily credit-monitoring alerts and $50,000 in identity theft protection.
iTunes rating: 4.8 stars with more than 324,000 ratings
Google Play rating: 4.3 stars with more than 128,000 ratings
Report pulled: TransUnion
Report update frequency: Every 30 days
Security: Your data is protected with a 256-bit encryption level and is exchanged through a 128-bit algorithm.
Features: Mint isn’t exclusively a credit-monitoring service, which is why it’s down here on the list. It’s more typically a fan-favorite budgeting app.
However, like others in this list, Mint offers a free credit score and credit report summary, which makes the information more digestible. You can opt in for monitoring alerts, so you’ll get pinged whenever TransUnion receives new credit information.
Are These Free Credit Scores Accurate?
For many of these apps, the most common negative review was that the scores and reports weren’t accurate.
However, the information on these apps should indeed be accurate. After all, they’re pulling it directly from your credit report.
But because there are lots of different credit scoring models — it might be different from what lenders see (not inaccurate). So if you’re checking things out on one of the apps listed above, you’ll see your VantageScore. A lender, on the other hand, might check your FICO score.
Here’s what to remember: Both of those are just three-digit numbers that are ultimately influenced by what’s on your credit report, which is the same for any model.
The moral of the story? Monitor your credit report so you can dispute any inaccuracies, detect any fishy activity or guide yourself toward financial health.
Carson Kohler (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.