Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Credit education is coming back in vogue at big banks and some credit unions.
As just one example, Wells Fargo has a limited-time offer for customers where they’ll give you a free credit score and free credit report through Nov. 15.
Unfortunately, the score you get is not your real FICO score. It is a made-up score that’s assessed based on the bank’s own proprietary scoring model.
The only real, true credit score is from Fair Isaac, the myFICO people. But this option from Wells Fargo gives you kind of like a temperature reading of how you’re doing with your credit.
I’ve talked in the past about CreditKarma.com as another option for getting your free non-FICO credit score as well.
Why is your credit rating important? A report from The Detroit Free Press examined what happens when two people with slightly different credit scores take out a car loan on a $25,000 vehicle for 5 years.
Over the course of the loan, the person with not-so-great credit pays about $8,500 more in interest alone than the person with great credit. That’s why it’s important.
When you check your credit score, there usually will be info to guide you as to what changes you need to make to raise your score. A lot of times, the difference in the interest rate you get does not require that much higher of a score to get the better rate.
So this is low-hanging fruit. I want you to take the information and put it to use.
If you’re not a member of Wells Fargo or a credit union with a similar credit education program, you can always get your credit report free at AnnualCreditReport.com. You’re allowed one free copy of each credit file each year from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
Remember, this is the only official site to get a free copy of your credit report.
– Clark Howard — Save More, Spend Less, Avoid Rip-offs — for the Atlanta Bargain Hunter blog