Welcome to My Personal Finance Journey! If you are new here, please read the “About” or “First-Time Visitor” pages to find out more about us. If you would like to receive free updates on articles like this by email, then sign up here or you can subscribe to the RSS feed. Also, check us out on Twitter or Facebook. Thanks for visiting! Keep on learning!
Click here to enter my free giveaway for 2 copies of H&R Block At Home Premium Edition
The title of the infographic below is “Financial Responsibility in the United States.” I have to admit that I literally “laughed out loud” when I saw this title (please pardon the reference to emoticon abbreviations – i.e. LOL). Why did this title make me laugh, you may ask?
Simple. The concept of being financially responsible in the US seems to be becoming less and less important. Why own something when you can just buy the car or cell phone on credit, right? Therefore, maybe a better title to this graphic would have been “Financial Irresponsibility in the United States?!”
Regardless of my personal feelings on the situation, the infographic gives some important insight in to the credit scores of the US public. I’ve tried to summarize these in bulleted form below:
- The average US credit score is 692.
- A person’s credit score can range anywhere from 300 (minimum) to 850 (maximum), with higher scores indicating a higher degree of credit worthiness and that you are more dependable in paying back debts.
- A credit score of 720 is generally regarded as the minimum you want to have in order to qualify for the most favorable credit terms (think lower interest rates!)
- I admit that the national average of 692 is slightly higher than I expected it to be, stemming from the magnitude of debt problems I hear about from friends and the financial media.
- There is a clear trend that credit scores get progressively worse, as you go further south in the United States.
- Texas, New Mexico, Nevada, and Louisiana have, on average, the lowest credit scores and the higher occurrence of personal bankruptcy filings.
- This makes me wonder – what causes this? Is it that financial education (both in the home and in schools) is worse in the Southern states? Do people just have less money? Is cost of living more expensive?
- If any one has any theories on this, definitely chime in/comment below!
How To Find Your Credit Score Absolutely Free (no credit card information required)
If you have read my previous series on building credit history and improving your credit score, you’ll know that I am a big fan of using Annualcreditreport.com to obtain my credit report for free once per year.
However, one thing that I have been making up stupid excuses about not doing is checking my actual credit score. One of the these less-than-robust excuses was that I didn’t want to pay the $15-$30 to check my credit score through one of the three credit agencies – Transunion, Experian, or Equifax.
But, this all changed last week when I was reading a blog post from a blogger friend describing her use of CreditKarma.com to get her real time credit score absolutely for free at any time! Since it seemed to have worked for her and more importantly, be secure, I decided to give it a go!
To find out your credit score for free from CreditKarma, simply follow the easy steps below:
- Go to https://www.creditkarma.com/signup.
- Create an account and password.
- Enter your personal information (note: this does include entering your Social Security Number).
- Confirm your identity by answering some simple multiple choice questions about your past (typical questions you have to answer when requesting a credit score/report).
- Overall Credit Grade
- Overall, the report said that I was doing pretty well managing my credit, with an Overall Credit Grade of an A! Nice!
- Open Credit Card Utilization
- Since I’m not currently carrying any balances on my credit cards, I have 0% credit card utilization. I would have expected that this would be a good thing, as higher credit card utilization can present a warning sign of credit risk.
- However, for some reason, I was given a C grade in this category.
- Maybe this is because the credit companies like you to carry a little balance from month to month so they know you’re not just using them for the cash-back benefits, as I am.
- % of On-Time Payments
- As mentioned above, I have never missed a debt payment, and got an A grade in this category, with 100% on-time payments.
- Average Age of Open Credit Lines
- I scored a D grade in this category, since the average age of open credit accounts I have is 2 years.
- In my opinion, an average age of open credit lines of 2 years is perfectly acceptable. However, I am guessing that the creditors like to see the average age be longer than this. This is something that I believe will come naturally with time.
- Total Accounts
- I scored a D grade in this category. This is most likely because I have a large number of credit card accounts that I opened only to receive the free money sign up bonus offers.
- In addition, I also only have credit card accounts. I don’t have the desired mix of mortgages, personal loans, car loans, and credit card accounts that would make this score go up.
- Hard Credit Inquiries
- Hard credit inquiries are ones that go on your credit report whenever you apply for new credit.
- I got a C grade in this category, with a total of 5 hard inquiries in the past 2 years.
- Derogatory Marks
- All of my debt accounts/credit cards are in good standing, so I got an A grade in this category.
Summary of My Results
So, overall, I was very satisfied with my credit score of 754. It is above average, especially for someone that is my age. I could definitely improve my score by 1) signing up for fewer free money sign up bonus offers from credit cards and 2) setting up small automatic payments on all of my credit cards each month in order to show that those accounts are active.
Does This Sound Too Good To Be True?
If you’re like me, you probably are thinking that this Credit Karma thing sounds too good to be true. However, it really is something that makes sense, if you think about how Credit Karma is making their money.
This question can be answered by one word – advertising.
Credit Karma has figured out that by offering credit scores for free, they drive an enormous amount of traffic to their site. Furthermore, because Credit Karma displays your credit score, it enables them display credit card and bank account offers to you that you are pre-qualified for. And, credit card and bank companies will pay big money for this type of “captive” audience. This is how Credit Karma makes their money! Pretty reasonable/logical if you ask me!
How about you all? What resource do you use to check your credit score? Have you ever used Credit Karma? Are there any other resources out there to get your credit score for free?
Share your experiences by commenting below!
***Photo courtesy of http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3509/3928496281_f906248523.jpg