When it comes to credit-related questions, it can be hard to sort the good information from the bad. While some sites are dedicated to providing consumers with quality information, others are focused solely on selling their product. This can be especially troubling when you are working to improve your credit and just want sound information to help you on your way.
To help you navigate the complex consumer credit market more effectively, here are the top X websites for quality information at no cost to you.
Annual Credit Report
Numerous sites claim to give you access to your credit report for free. However, these sites often require you to provide a credit or debit card, sign up for trial offers, or purchase additional services. And, if you fail to cancel your trial subscription, your credit or debit card is automatically charged to continue the service.
There is one site that provides you free access to each of your credit reports from the three major bureaus at no cost and doesn’t require a form of payment to complete the process. AnnualCreditReport.com is authorized by Federal law; the site is mandated to provide ever person access to each of their credit reports on an annual basis at absolutely no cost.
Not only can this help you find errors on your credit reports that need correcting, but it also provides you a method for monitoring your credit reports on a regular basis. You can choose to receive all three reports at once or request one every four months to keep an eye out for activity year-round.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a federal government agency designed to ensure people are treated fairly when dealing with banks, lenders, and other financial businesses. Their services are covered at ConsumerFinance.gov, including access to a vast array of educational resources and consumer tools.
You can explore topics relating to adult and youth financial education, tax preparation, auto loans, paying for college, owning a home, planning for retirement, and information to help parents. The information is provided at no cost and is available anytime. Free printable guides and check sheets are provided, giving you an opportunity to maintain the information most relevant to you.
Policy and compliance information is also available, as well as a portal to submit a consumer complaint.
Consumer Protection Basics
Another government site dedicated to consumer information is Consumer.gov. You can find information on how to manage your money, use credit cards and loans, protection your personal information, and the identification and avoidance of scams.
Topics about money management range from how to make a budget to the use of debit, prepaid, or even phone cards. You can learn how to open a bank account as well as how to save money when you shop for everyday necessities. For those with family overseas, information is provided to help you successfully and safely send money to those living outside of the U.S.
The credit area covers information on how credit works as well as articles designed to assist you in understanding your credit history. Particular attention is paid to the risks associated with payday loans, cash advances, and car title loans, coupled with a selection of debt management advice.
For additional protection, the site includes information on identity theft avoidance and recovery, scams targeting immigrants, employment scams, and money wiring scams.
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is best known for insuring the deposits everyday people put into their bank accounts. However, the FDIC also offers consumer protection information at their website, FDIC.gov. You can learn about how to identify and resolve billing errors, the proper use of prepaid cards, laws and regulations regarding debt collection efforts, and how to maintain a level of financial privacy.
If you find yourself being abused by a debt collection agency, the FDIC website can help clarify what is and is not permitted when a company attempts to collect a debt. If a collections agency is operating outside of the laws and regulations in place, you can file a complaint with the FDIC regarding the activity.
Federal Trade Commission
Additional consumer protection information is available through the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The website, FTC.gov, can help with the identification of scam and rip-offs while providing guidance regarding identity theft. Additionally, you can register your phone number with the National DO Not Call Registry to limit telemarking calls directed to your phone.
BONUS: Credit Score Monitoring
While the federal government ensures you have access to your credit reports on an annual basis, these reports do not include your credit score. However, there are a variety of free services that can help you monitor these critical numbers.
For example, CreditKarma is a well-known site that provides users with regular access to their current credit score. Additionally, a variety of credit card providers offer the ability to track your FICO® score at no additional cost. In fact, Discover® provides access to your score even if you are not a current customer.
It is important to understand that many of these services are supported by advertising. While there is no cost to you, you may see product advertisements or recommendations while using the service. By recognizing that these offerings are not necessarily displayed for your benefit, you can make more effective decisions. Just because a particular credit card or loan is shown, that does not mean you are guaranteed to have your application accepted. Additionally, while these sites do not negatively impact your credit score, completing an application can cause a temporary drop in your score.