By Preeti Mehta, Director of Project Incubation at D2D Fund
In a move towards helping consumers take control of their financial lives, or at least their credit, the CFPB recently called on top credit card companies to make credit scores available to consumers. At D2D, we’ve been thinking a lot about how mobile apps can help consumers make better decisions. So this announcement by the CFPB and a recent post on this blog got me thinking about mobile apps that make it easy for individuals to get their credit reports and credit scores.
Mobile smartphones are everywhere, even among the underserved. According to the Federal Reserve, 69 percent of the unbanked have access to a mobile phone, approximately half of which are smartphones, and 88 percent of the underbanked have access to a mobile phone, 64 percent of which are smartphones. Further, smartphones are increasingly bridging the digital divide: A quarter of smartphone users report that their smartphones are their main source of internet access.
Two free apps for accessing your credit report
Two mobile apps from Credit Karma and Credit Sesame make it easy to access your credit reports. Apps are available for both the iOS and Android operating systems, and the best part - they’re free. Both provide credit reports and free credit scores. Neither requires you to enter credit card information, nor do they offer trial offers, so there is nothing to cancel.
However, it is important to note that neither provides a FICO score from Fair Issac Corporation, which has developed a methodology to assess consumers’ creditworthiness using credit reports from TransUnion, Experian and Equifax, the three major credit bureaus used by lenders. Credit Karma provides a proprietary credit score from TransUnion and Credit Sesame uses one from Experian. Even though these alternative scores differ from the FICO score (the one most lenders use), they’re important indicators of consumers’ creditworthiness, and provide a very reasonable alternative to FICO scores, which can be expensive to get. So if you have a smartphone, download the apps today.
Readers should, however, be aware that consumers can receive credit reports free once a year from each of the bureaus from www.annualcreditreport.com. The reports and scores from Credit Karma and Credit Sesame are excellent free alternatives and they also provide free scores. Readers can find out more about how these scores differ from the FICO scores in the Frequently Asked Question sections of each website (these are also available in-app).