Monitoring Your Credit (for Free).

Factors contributing to someone's credit score
Image via Wikipedia

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.

Fitbit looks sweet, competitor for Zeo?

Image representing Fitbit
Image via CrunchBase

I still haven’t gotten my hands on a Zeo1::cough:: If  wanted to send me a demo unit, I’d love to test it out. 😉 ::cough::, but I’ve been wanting one…but now I’ve learned about a new little gem of a unit that looks quite fascinating called Fitbit.

Unlike the Zeo, Fitbit is not specifically focused on sleep – rather it tracks a variety of health factors that includes sleep but also covers activity levels, calories burned, and distance traveled. Its like a Zeo+ from all appearances.

The real kicker is that the Fitbit only costs $99 compared to Zeo’s $200 price tag. Granted, I’m not too eager to drop $99 on a device either – especially when I think my iPhone/Droid should be able to provide similar tracking using applications (in fact, I’ve been using Sleep Cycle on the iPhone to track my sleep for the last five days…and love it…but more on that in a separate post).

I do think the Fitbit has a ways to go before it becomes a complete tool. For example, I’d like to see it measure my blood pressure, perhaps allow for pin pricks and some basic blood measurements…see my earlier post on this topic which I imagine will show up in Related posts below.

Cars That Drive Themselves? Google Has ‘Em.

Image representing Google
Image via CrunchBase

Is it April 1st? No? Good! Then this article by Samuel Axon reporting that Google has been successfully testing artificial intelligence controlled vehicles isn’t a joke! Yes!

This has been an area I’ve really desired to see development in for some time – and until this news was released while research was occurring it still seemed a distant reality. The extent of Google’s testing and success seems to indicate the day may be much more quickly approaching than we could have initially predicted.

What would be the benefits of AI controlled cars? How about:

  • A significant reduction in accidents. AI can utilize a number of sensors without fatigue, distraction, or other factors that cause humans to mess up and get into accidents. I’d guesstimate that we could eliminate 90% of accidents by moving to AI controlled vehicles.
  • A significant enhancement in fuel and time efficiency. The AI could determine (based on traffic patterns) the best routes and also could optimize speed / acceleration / etc. to optimize fuel utilization.
  • Imagine relaxing in your car! You’d find I’d suddenly become much more willing to travel. Instead of driving five hours to New York and back again I’d lounge in the car reading a book, watching a movie, or taking a nap!

This is huge news and I, for one, am exceptionally excited about it! Go Google!