Improving your credit score is one of the foundational aspects of building fiscal fitness. A great credit score will help you lower your insurance rates, get the best rates on mortgages, and access the best credit card rewards (if you choose to become a travel hacker).
Once you have a great credit score, it’s pretty easy to keep your score in the 800s (I did it with just two credit cards). However, while you’re building your score, you may have an almost obsessive interest in knowing where you stand, and how to improve your score.
The easiest way to stay on top of your credit score is to choose a free website that gives you real-time feedback on your credit score. While you can choose from dozens of free credit score sites, one option is the American Express® MyCredit Guide. It’s free to everyone, so you don’t have to be an American Express® customer to create a platform. Is the site worth it? Here’s what you need to know about it.
How the American Express® MyCredit Guide Works
The MyCredit Guide is a free online tool that shows you a simplified credit report (from TransUnion), and it calculates your credit score using VantageScore 3.0 (a decent proxy for most credit cards used by credit card companies). To access the site, you need to be at least 18 years old with a Social Security number. You’ll have to answer a number of questions to establish that you are in fact the person in question.
On top of these free tools, American Express® offers a free credit score simulator. The credit score simulator shows what might happen to your credit score if you pay down debt, open a new loan, pay a loan late, etc.
If you’re interested in reading articles about building credit, you can use the credit education portal to learn more.
Is There Concerning Fine Print?
When you give American Express® access to your credit score, you give them permission to advertise to you. They will primarily advertise their credit cards to you through the “Offers” section of the guide.
While there’s nothing wrong with selecting a credit card through an credit scoring tool, I often find that advertised options aren’t always the best credit cards for any given situation. Sometimes, it can be better to not open a new credit card at all.
The other area of concern, is that American Express® has access to your credit profile. While American Express® uses passthrough technology and encryption, data proliferation is always a concern for me. The only particularly effective method to keep your credit report safe is to freeze your credit. However, you cannot have frozen credit when you register for the MyCredit Guide. If you share concerns about data privacy, you can opt to register for the MyCredit Guide and then freeze your credit later on.
How Does the American Express® MyCredit Guide Stack Up to the Competition?
The absolute best feature of the American Express® MyCredit Guide is the credit score simulator. It is easily the most robust credit score simulator I’ve ever seen. It is the only credit simulator that makes it easy to test accounts falling into delinquency, opening new loans, shopping for credit, and more.
I was a little surprised to see that taking out a mortgage (a loan I don’t currently have) would lead to a drop of 100 points, but as I studied the literature on VantageScore 3.0, the drop made sense (my score would likely recover in 6 to 12 months, assuming on-time payments).
The only drawback to the credit simulator is that it only shows the immediate effects of credit actions. However, something that causes an immediate score drop (taking out a new loan) can bolster your credit score later on.
I also like that the MyCredit Guide tracks your credit score over time. Credit Sesame and Credit Karma also have this feature, but it’s more prominent in the American Express® MyCredit Guide.
Outside of these two features, the MyCredit Guide is just another free way to access your credit score. If you’re not using a free service, the American Express® MyCredit Guide is one good option among many.
Over time the credit score history will show more points. It can be updated as often as once per week.
If you don’t know your credit score, or you don’t like the credit score tracking website you’re using, consider giving the American Express® MyCredit Guide a try. It’s cleaner than most credit tracking websites, easier to use, and less cluttered with ads. Plus, the credit score simulator is second to none.
The MyCredit Guide isn’t great enough to merit a switch from another site, but it is currently my top recommendation for people who need to look at their credit score for the first time.