Monitoring Your Credit (for Free).

Factors contributing to someone's credit score
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It used to be you had to pay to get your credit report, then federal law required the credit agencies to provide us with one free credit report each year. This was a huge step forwards but the interface was and still is tremendously clunky and once you’ve viewed it once – not the easiest to get back to. You can still get those official free credit reports from each of the three credit reporting agencies here.

Thankfully, newer and easier ways to gather your credit reports are now becoming available. I want to talk about two of these – Credit Karma and Quizzle.

Credit Karma offers you a free credit score pulled from TransUnion. It appears you can re-pull your score as often as you like. In addition to giving you visibility into your score and report, Credit Karma compares your score against other Credit Karma users, provides you with a Credit Simulator to see how various actions would positively or negatively affect your score, and provides customized offers for credit cards, auto insurance, home mortgages, etc. that could potentially lower your expenses. Credit Karma is able to provide the service for free by offering these sorts of targeted sponsor offers.

Quizzle is part of the larger conglomerate, Quicken Loans. Quizzle pulls your credit score/report from Experian. Unlike Credit Karma, you can’t repull your report any time you like for free – only once every six months – but hey, that’s still pretty good, right? Quizzle also offers a number of free features similar to those found in Credit Karma. Credit Karma also has some premium features you can purchase – but aren’t obliged to – such as basic and advanced credit monitoring on a more frequent basis. The prices aren’t bad – working up to around $8/mo.

Between these two services you can get two out of three credit reports for free. Unfortunately, I’m not aware of a similar service that offers credit pulls from Equifax. If anyone is aware of such a service – I’d love to hear about it.

AAA – The reasonable cost for peace of mind.

The AAA logo
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I didn’t have AAA for years, but one Christmas my mom gave me a subscription, now I wouldn’t leave home without it. AAA at its most basic offers roadside assistance when your vehicle breaks down – not just your vehicle but any vehicle you might be driving. AAA will send out a tow truck, someone with a few gallons of gas, or a locksmith to unlock your doors if you left your keys in the car (again!).

I know some people feel like its a waste of money – but for $60-$100 a year? A single tow truck pull will cost you that much! I’ve used AAA on several occasions in the three or four years I’ve now been a member. There was the time I hit a pothole and flattened my tire – AAA towed me to my mechanic. There was the time my wife left her keys in the car and we called AAA and they unlocked the vehicle quickly and efficiently. These and other occasions make it so worthwhile. Instead of googling for a mechanic we simply call AAA and they take care of the entire process for us.

There are lots of additional benefits to being a AAA member as well. Want to eat out? Go to a hotel? Take a vacation? AAA offers significant discounts on a variety of products and services. Perhaps you are planning a vacation. They can help you decide the best route or rent a vehicle. They offer auto insurance with lower rates and send out a regular magazine with articles about safety and vacations.

Being part of AAA is sort of similar to being in a family. You know that they exist to care for you. I highly recommend them.