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If you're not already, you really should be paying attention to your credit report and history these days. Not only for identity theft issues but also if you intend on getting any loan, credit card, or mortgage anytime in the future. Believe it or not there are a LOT of tools out there that are 100% free and easy to get your report and/or score information.

Let's start with your report... Many people know this already, but http://www.annualcreditreport.com/ is THE place to get all three of the major credit agency reports, completely free, once per year. Unfortunately, they do not have a free score - but the three agencies are happy to sell you your score while you're checking out your report. What three, you ask? TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax are the big three credit agencies or bureaus. Each publishes their own report and own FICO score based on your data. And some banks/lenders will use any one of the three (or all of them) to determine your eligibility.

So you have your report... but you want your score too? There are currently three completely, 100% free sites that I'd recommend you check out. The biggest thing to keep in mind with these free sites though, is that it is not the actual FICO score that the banks see. It is generically referred to as a "FAKO" score. It is based on the same data as the FICO score, but the calculation methods are not exactly the same (because they are kept secrets) and therefore the score turns out close, but not exact. So a good rule of thumb is that, while these scores are very useful, your actual FICO score may be +/- 30 points or more compared to what these sites give you.

The first, CreditKarma.com, is one I've been using for a few years now (you know, the one that advertises now with the annoying grandma whining about her credit card). Despite their annoying TV commercials, CK is one of my favorite financial sites and one of the ones I use most often. It uses data from TransUnion to generate your score and also gives you some data from your report as far as your accounts, utilization and other details. But you do NOT get a full report. If you choose to, CK will also connect to your various online bank, credit, and loan accounts - but I'm not exactly sure of the purpose of this (I have mine connected but don't really pay attention to that part of the site). The score on CK should update about once per week.

Another site I've been using for a while is CreditSesame.com. They operate in the same way that CK does - free "FAKO" score by trying to get you to sign up for credit cards and such. The major difference is that CS uses Experian data for their score. This is good because it gets you data and an estimated score from one of the other 3 agencies. I believe Credit Sesame updates their score information either once per week or once per month. Another bonus for CS is that they offer free credit monitoring. So if a new account pops up on your report or something like that, you will get alerted.

The third site is one that I signed up for a year or so ago but never really used that much, Quizzle.com. That was until I found out they recently switched from Experian data (I think or maybe TransUnion) to Equifax data to generate their score. What this means for you now is that if you use all three sites, you can get an estimated score from each of the three major credit agencies. A little bonus from Quizzle is that it will actually give you your full Equifax credit report anytime you want it. I'm still digging around the all-new Quizzle website, but so far so good.

Again... all three sites give you an estimated score based on data from one of the three major credit reporting agencies. This information, combined with your free annual credit reports should help you keep an eye on not only your identity but your lending potential. Pretty important if you want to actually borrow something. Also worth noting, both Credit Karma and Credit Sesame have mobile apps available that can help you track this stuff on the go.

One other tool I'm going to throw out there is Mint.com. If you've never used it, Mint connects to your online financial accounts and can help to track your spending, budget money for various things, and show you some interesting trends and data to figure out where your money is going. So if you say to yourself every month that you have no idea where your money is going or wonder why you have no money left over, check out Mint and figure out where it all went. They also have mobile apps to help you when you're out and about.

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