The Lifeblood of Personal Finance

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ID-100122931-220x162Many aspects make up a successful personal finance plan. One, however, stands above and beyond all else. That single, vital piece of the personal finance puzzle is a strong credit score.

Known in the “business” as a FICO score, this single number can have a significant impact on every part of an individual’s life. Knowing your FICO score and taking steps to improve it, if needed, is essential to getting/keeping your fiscal house in order.

If you don’t know your FICO score, now’s the time to get it. The website is the only authorized source to get your free annual credit report under federal law (per the Federal Trade Commission). Here is the link to the FTC’s website on which you’ll find information on getting your credit reports and the link to do so.

While the link will get you your detailed credit information (Credit inquiries associated with your name/SSN, all of the accounts you have open, the payment histories associated with each account and the amounts owed on each account) it will not get you your FICO score. You must pay to actually get your FICO score from the big three credit reporting companies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.  And paying for your FICO score is usually in conjunction with a monthly subscription for credit monitoring services.

A caution about navigating the online world to get your credit report/FICO score. There are many websites that say they will get you your credit information/FICO score for free…but that’s usually not entirely true. As mentioned, is the only site sanctioned by the federal government. Others, while they may claim to be free, will likely try to tie you into credit monitoring (like the credit reporting companies) or other services for a monthly fee. And that’s if they are legitimate. Other sites may be there to solely steal your identity once you provide your Social Security Number and other key information. So beware when looking for FICO scores outside of the “big three.”

Over the past year, more and more credit card companies have begun offering FICO scores to cardholders for free. American Express, Barclays, Discover and Capital One provide cardholders free FICO scores, while Chase and Citibank provide scores to holders of specific cards.  If you have a credit card from one of these banks, sign in to your account to see if this benefit is now available to you.

Obtaining credit/FICO information is fairly easy these days, so utilize the information provided above to become better educated about your specific credit situation. My next post will discuss how the FICO score affects your whole life, and what specific FICO scores really mean.

image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

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