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Consumer Reports: There are free alternatives to check your credit score

Researchers at Consumer Reports say there are some apps you should avoid because they charge extra fees, target you with marketing and collect your data.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — If you're trying to become more money-savvy, Consumer Reports says there are five credit apps that you should avoid.

Their financial policy analysts found Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, Experian, MyFico and Transunion apps have extra fees, heavy marketing and are collecting your personal information, and you might not realize it.

“It's pretty common for folks not to read the fine print of these things when they sign up, and there's a lot in there in all these companies on the data they collect and what they do with it, the third parties that they often offload this data to,” financial policy analyst Syed Ejaz said.

He says your credit report is your financial passport, and there are ways to get the information you need without downloading an app.

“These apps for the most part ask for people to pay for access to all three of their credit reports which is something they’re legally entitled, that consumers are legally entitled to once per year at annualcreditreport.com.  So the core things these apps offer can easily be replaced with other things that are less harmful for consumers,” Ejaz said.

 He says if you are using one of these apps, you should shut it down. Most of them are not giving you the credit score that's used to make most financial decisions. Employers and insurance companies might use that credit score to determine whether to hire you or whether to give you coverage, so you want to make sure what's on the report is accurate. The three major credit bureaus are allowing you to get a free one each week through April, so that you can clean up any errors during the pandemic.

“Our recommendation is if someone wants to get their credit score, they should check with their bank or their credit card company. Usually, your bank or your credit card company, they already have access to your credit score and oftentimes they provide it. Folks may not know that they already have access to this information,” Ejaz said.

He says if you don’t have a credit card or a bank account, the system is not set up to help you. That’s why they’re working with other non-profits to get legislation passed to make it easier to check with an online database. You can learn more about that here.

You can learn more about the analysis from Consumer Reports here