If you are looking for a new car, new home, new credit card or loan, your credit rating can severely impact the likelihood of being able to get approved for any type of loan. A lot of times, we like to think that our credit standing is just a number and not something that has real world consequences. Well, I used to think that way until…
A few months ago, I decided that I wanted to buy my first new car; nothing to fancy – a Kia Optima. I did all the negotiating with the sales manager, lending department, etc.. When it can time to run my credit report I was in for a shock.
Much to my embarrassment I was turned away from the car dealership for having a bad credit rating.
That night, I made it my goal to work towards improving my credit rating so I could buy the car I wanted. I immediately begin searching online for tips and workshops on credit scores. I kept on running into a service called My Credit Keeper and read several positive reviews on the internet. As the first month was free, I felt I had nothing to lose so I decided to give the service a try. In hindsight, I kind of just got lucky with my first try and I have detailed my experience below.
What is My Credit Keeper & How Can It Help Me?
Credit Keeper is a credit score monitoring service from HSBC Bank that allows you to find out your current credit situation. In comparison to the multiple similar services from financial institutions, they allow you to monitor your credit score from all 3 of the major credit bureau agencies. For example, Credit Karma, only allows you to see one credit bureau report. From the day you sign up, you can begin monitoring and pulling your credit reports and scores as well as being given advice on how you can improve your score.
How Does My Credit Keeper Work?
The Sign Up Process
The signup process was rather routine for anyone accustomed to online banking. You enter the usual personal information and then was sent an email with my User ID; this was made up from parts of my last name as well as randomly generated numbers. An account number was also emailed to me, which I kept for future reference in case I had any questions about my account or if at any time I wanted to cancel the service.
The Nuts & Bolts Of The Program
Pulling Your Credit Reports
To reiterate, the biggest advantage of My Credit Keeper, is that you are able to see credit reports from the top three credit reporting bureaus. Not only that, but they have a great, concise grid format that allows you to view the data from the each bureau lined up next to each other in three columns. This is a god send for making comparisons and finding errors on your reports. I could not imagine having to sort through that volume of information and go back and forth between reports trying to match everything together. This feature is an A+ for me.
Once I entered the “Credit Center,” I was taken to the “My Credit” page which displayed 3 graphs. Above the graphs were a tab to access my credit report. This report was updated on a monthly basis. Below the credit report I found a breakdown of both the positive and negative aspects of my information. Personal information, credit and account history, public records and recent credit inquiries were all available for me to see. I was able to access all this information anytime I wanted.
Personal Credit Score
Seeing my personal credit score allowed me to gain a better overall understanding of my credit picture. More importantly, it gave me a better idea as to why the Kia dealer declined my financing. Being a competitive person, I loved the fact that I was able to compare my score against the national average and could see what the key factors were that could impact my score. Each month I found myself trying to beat the number displayed on the screen; “Your CreditXpert Credit Score is higher than X% of the U.S. population.” As silly as it sounds, this was actually a great motivator for me.
Each month, I received a set of credit scores from the credit agencies. This was visually represented by graphs and as each month went by, my score was charted and color coded for each of the agencies. After the first month, Credit Keeper added a score tracker; the range for the CreditXpert score was 350-850 and the Score Tracker was 300-900; the higher the number, the better.
Credit Report Monitoring
For the website, the main area I focused on was the overview page of their “My Credit”. Specifically, I kept a close eye on the ‘new alerts’ area. This was monitored daily and I was notified if any of these things occurred:
- New accounts opened in my name
- Negative information added to my credit report
- Any inquiries made by creditors
- A monthly notice if none of the above have occurred
How Credit Monitoring My Credit Scores Help Improve My Credit Rating
It is all very well and good being able to track my credit score rating but I needed something more; something that would improve my score in a few months. This is what Credit Keeper excelled at. I was given steps and tools to help me improve my credit rating and along my path to credit worthiness. I could then track the improvement on a monthly basis by seeing whether my Score Tracker score had changed. Setting small goals make the road to understanding your credit scores much more easier to navigate.
Although the learning center was not anything new to me, it was still worth a read to refresh my mind. Some basic credit information, a few things about my credit report and credit score were all provided. The news and articles displayed were also worth a read as they held important information about topics such as identity theft.
Apps & Tools
Calculators & Worksheets
The tools that comes with this program are the things that really enabled me to improve my credit rating.
The most original app they offer is for ‘CreditXperts’. I was able to choose from a list of possible actions to see what impact they might have on my personal credit score. I could also test each of these actions to see whether they were beneficial or detrimental to my score. This was especially helpful when I was considering applying for more automobile loans. This tool showed me how applying for multiple loans in a short time period can actually lower my credit score.
They also offer the usual suspects of financial tools with calculators for debt management, debt payoff, auto loans, mortgages and setting up a personal budget. Needless to say, if you aren’t already watching your budget closely, make sure you take advantage of these.
If I found any errors that existed on my report, I was provided with a pre-formatted correction letter to dispute any incorrect information as well as being able to speak to “Credit Experts” to assist me. Again, this helped me out because I had 2 error’s on my report from an old student loan that never was processed but was showing negatively on my report. Once I was disputed this with Experian and Transunion, my score jumped 55 points the next month. I was thrilled and really felt proud that I was able to correct an ‘error’ like this on my own!
Other Useful Tools
If you are considering moving to a new area and want some information on the area first; a neighborhood report can be downloaded. I had no need for this service but I thought it is worth mentioning as others might.
In the “My Benefits” page, worksheets could be found. Here I learned how to improve my credit rating by using three worksheets; a worksheet was provided to help me to track minimum payments over 6 months, another worksheet focused on debt reduction and the final worksheet was able to help me find extra sources of cash (to help pay down debt).
I was also able to see the interest rates I could get on my mortgage and car loans as well as how higher credit scores could lead to lower interest rates. This again motivated me to be disciplined and continue working on credit score.
Customer Service Department
The customer service is nothing to write home about. It is like any other. If I needed assistance, I was provided with an address, email, toll free number and hotline number. There was a page with a list of FAQs which was able to answer a couple of questions I had. However, as I didn’t run into any problems on their end, I had no need to contact customer service. When I did find the student loan errors on my report, their CSR’s were able to direct me to their dispute form and help me get it prepared for Experian and Transunion.
So How Much Does Credit Monitoring Cost?
When signing up, I was offered a free 30 day trial, after which I was charged $9.99 a month on a recurring basis. This was automatically taken from my bank account each month so I didn’t have to worry about remembering to pay.
For only $9.99 a month, I feel that Credit Keeper is definitely worth getting and worth every penny! It was accurate in monitoring my credit rating and provided very helpful information to help me understand my credit scores. I felt that the way data was visually represented made it easy to understand what was happening with my credit rating and the various tools and worksheets made it the best credit monitoring service available.
Ready for the happy ending for my journey to credit worthiness?
Did Credit Keeper help me get the car I wanted? I can happily say yes it did. In 6 short months, I was able to improve my credit rating and am now the proud owner of an a 2012 Kia Optima.