As eye catching as the brightly colored signs are, of course, grabbing financial advice off the street is one way to pay high fees for something you can find for free. Or you might pay outlandish sums for services that you can do yourself.
The good news for consumers is that extra help regarding credit scores and credit reports is now available from a variety of sources. Unfortunately, many consumers still aren't sure where to look or they don't want to be bothered.
More than half of consumers surveyed -- 58% -- didn't even know their credit score, according to a report the
Many times, consumers start caring about a score when a lender tells us that we don't qualify for a low rate on a major loan because of a low score. Unlike what signs on the road imply, there isn't a quick fix for boosting a credit score. But educational information can offer a realistic plan of attack.
"Everybody wants the 'What Next?' button," said
So Credit.com has new "personalized action plans" to help consumers figure out what they can do to raise their credit scores. One strategy? Start paying more than the minimum required payment on credit cards to lead to lower balances and possibly raise the score.
"We provide credit comparison, credit trending, a score analysis, and a credit time line that shows how your personal credit was built over time," said
In January, Quizzle started a partnership with
"A score alone does not give consumers a full understanding of their credit health," Albery said. And that's where online advice can help.
Albery compares seeing one's credit score to being in high school and finding out you got a 76% on a geometry test. But what if you never saw what questions you got wrong on the actual test? How would you find ways to improve?
Finding out your credit score wasn't always as easy or simply as free as seeing a grade on a test. Now, though, some consumers are finding access to free credit scores via their credit card statements and online accounts, too.
Discover rolled out free, three-digit FICO scores on monthly statements for its card members after a test run last year.
The push for free credit scores is leading some online outfits to boost their offerings, as well.
Cohen, of Credit.com, said the goal of the personal action plan is to help consumers solve real problems by learning strategies in as few clicks as possible.
Cohen walked me through the new program online and showed how a consumer can easily slide gadgets on the computer screen to figure out what's driving down their score. Is it their payment history? High debt? Mix of accounts?
"It's enough to get people to act," Cohen said.
Sometimes, the strategy could involve taking steps to pay down more credit card debt and other debt to drive up the score.
Take a consumer who owes
Paying an extra
Other consumers could end up being warned that they don't want to apply for more credit right now. They might want an on-the-spot discount in a store but they could be driving up the cost of their overall borrowing on other loans because they've applied for too much credit lately.
Driving a credit score higher, of course, can lead to lower interest rates when one does take out a loan and then push down the cost of borrowing over the long run.
Credit.com notes that even a so-so credit score can cost some consumers more than
"The data we pull on you is all yours. Here take it," Cohen said.
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