Last week, I called up my credit-card company to ask about some charge I didn’t understand. Because I’m Indian, whenever I talk to a company, I always ask if they have any special promotions running. “Yes, we have a couple,” they said, and my ears perked up. “Sir, did you know you can get your credit score and credit report for free right now?”
Interesting. I asked a couple of questions and discovered that they have a $9.95/month program called “Identity Monitoring,” which is basically completely useless, but people who don’t know better might sign up for it. However, the upside was that they have a 30-day free trial, during which time they’d send me my credit score for free. This would save me about $35. As long as I canceled within a month, there’d be no charge. (More about why your credit score is important here.)
No problem. I do trial offers all the time and I always enter the cancellation date in my calendar (plus a couple days of buffer in case something goes wrong). Here’s what my reminder in Outlook says:
Identify monitoring — cancel
Account #: XXXXXXX
By entering all the information I need to make a call, I remove all the possible barriers, like “I don’t have the account number…I’ll do it later.” I know the phone number and account number right there.
Anyway, I got the credit score and was happy I saved a little money. So I called them up 2 days ago to cancel. The rep said, “Sir, I’m happy to cancel your account, but did you know you could get your 3-in-1 credit report for free? I show you as only having gotten one so far.” (Note: Your credit report is different than your credit score.)
Touche, I thought. So I agreed to continue the service for a little while longer so I could download my credit reports.
I finished that within about 20 minutes and called them back. Little did I know that there was more! This time, another rep offered to send me some my other 2 credit scores if I agreed to keep the service going for another few days.
I checked my calendar and verified that I wouldn’t be charged. The reps were all extremely nice and extremely up-front in assuring me that lots of people cancel before 30 days, and that I definitely wouldn’t be charged. And knowing what we know about getting fees reversed, even if I did get charged, I’m sure I could get it reversed.
The point is that you don’t always have to be suspicious of these things. I got about $100 worth of free stuff for a few minutes on the phone by using a simple infrastructure to make sure I cancel on time. Other things you could use this for: Blockbuster/Netflix trials, any financial-services trial, or basically any trial!
So here’s what I want you to do. I want you to get your credit report and credit score today. It will take you a few minutes, but it’s worth it:
- Get your credit report. This describes how many accounts you have open, what standing they’re in, etc. Time required: ~20 minutes. Fee: Free. Get it here: http://www.annualcreditreport.com.
- Get your credit score. This is an actual number–the same number that lenders see (e.g., for car loans and home loans). The higher the score, the better loan you get (more about credit scores.) Time required: ~30 minutes. Fee: It depends, but not much. To start off, just get one of your credit scores. I notice that Experian will let you get your Experian score for free during a 30-day free trial. So does Transunion. I don’t care which you choose–Experian, TransUnion, Equifax, or a 3rd-party provider like MyFico. The important part is to just do it. Later, you can get really fancy with a 3-in-1 credit report.
By the end of today, you’ll have a credit report, which you can check for accuracy and make sure your accounts are straight. You’ll also know what your credit score is–along with specific instructions on how to improve it.
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