You know how important your three-digit credit score is. Lenders use this score to determine whether you qualify for auto loans, student loans and mortgage loans. They also use it to determine the interest rate attached to these loans.
A low credit score — anything under 640 on the FICO scale — means that you’ll struggle to qualify for loans at anything other than the highest interest rates. And that can cost you plenty of money.
You want to do everything possible to keep your credit score high. That’s where a service such as Mint Credit Monitor can help.
This service provides you alerts any time your three credit files — one each maintained by the national credit bureaus of Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — change or update. If Mint Credit Monitor finds a change or new credit information, it instantly sends you an e-mail message requesting that you log into your account.
Once you open your account, you can see what the change is. Often, that change will be benign. The credit bureaus might have taken note that you have opened a new credit-card account, for example.
Other times, the information might be negative. The bureaus might list that you have paid your auto loan more than 30 days late. That will result in a hit on your credit score, and might cause it to fall by 100 points or more. Knowing that the bureaus have this information is important. It might inspire you to make changes in your financial behavior, encouraging you to start a new trend of paying all your bills on time each month.
Sometimes, the changes in your alert might be mistakes. Maybe the bureaus are reporting that you’ve opened a new credit-card account when you actually haven’t done so. It’s important to be alerted to these mistakes. You can then notify the bureaus to correct these errors before they cause your credit score to fall.
The Mint Credit Monitor will also tell you your FICO credit score. This number is important to know, too. You’ll be able to determine if your score is a strong one or one that’s weak.
As an example, FICO scores of 760 or higher are considered excellent, while those in the 725 to 759 range are considered very good. Scores under 660 fall into the fair to bad range. By knowing where your score is at all times — it does fluctuate — you can take the appropriate steps to improve it, paying your bills on time and paying off as much of your credit-card debt as possible.
The credit monitoring service also offers the Score Simulator. This is another key tool for consumers, one that helps you determine how your financial actions might impact your FICO score. You can simply select from a number of possible choices — everything from paying off a credit card to making a payment on time to skipping a payment — and then ask the simulator to give you an estimate of how that action might hurt or help your score. You might be surprised at how much damage a bad financial move can inflict on what was a healthy score.
Finally, you can rely on Mint Credit Monitor to gauge your risk of identity theft. The service offers its own Identity Theft Score, which tells you whether you are at high, low or moderate risk for suffering identity theft. Mint calculates this threat level by analyzing what pieces of your personal information are available to the public and where these pieces of information can be found.
The Mint Credit Monitor isn’t free. You’ll have to pay $16.99 a month for it. But if you’re worried about dings to your credit score and if you want to protect your identity, you might find this a worthwhile fee. The Mint Credit Monitor doesn’t skimp on the information it provides each month. A yearly fee of just over $203 might be a sound investment, especially if it provides you peace of mind.