There are a lot of scammy websites out there that try to trick you into thinking you are being wise by checking your credit report for “free” including at least one that has a series of popular television commercials. To help readers better understand their credit, here is a review of one of the sites that isn’t a scam, Quizzle.com.
How to spot a scam
One of the most annoying things on the internet is a site that asks you enter your credit card information, but assures you that they have no intention of charging you, they just need your credit card to verify your identity. Whenever you see this, you can be pretty sure they are lying to you. There are lots of ways to identify you, but only one way to charge your credit card, and that is to have you enter the credit card number. So if somebody ever asks you for your credit card number, it is because they intend to charge you. This is your sign that you are probably in the wrong place and should probably leave.
I was very happy to see that Quizzle does not ask for your credit card number (unless you want to sign up for their premium service), so I knew that they really were providing information on my credit report for no charge. Of course, Quizzle.com has to make money somehow, and they do that through advertising.
The ads are cleverly disguised like in this example above. I am looking at a page that has a series of boxes with little factoids and tips about my various accounts with information about what I can do with these accounts to improve my credit score, and they have slipped in a credit card recommendation that looks a lot like the other boxes. However, I don’t find the ads too intrusive and they don’t get in the way of the real information, so I don’t mind them. In general, I am the kind of guy that likes to get stuff for free in exchange for looking at a few ads, so this business model doesn’t bother me.
How Quizzle works
When you first sign up, you enter the information they need to pull your credit report which includes your name, address, and social security information. They also ask for information that is not for your credit report, but is used to analyze your information and give you a few financial tips as well as customize your ads for you. This information includes stuff like your income and whether you own a house or not.
You are then asked a series of challenge questions that comes from information off your credit report. These questions might be about old mortgages and loans, old addresses you used to live at, or your employer. These questions might seem obtrusive but Quizzle is actually required to ask these to verify your identity before they are allowed to provide you with the information.
The first thing you will notice when reviewing your credit report is your score. Unfortunately, this is not the true FICO score that most people think of as their credit score, but is something called their Vantage score. The Vantage score is an approximation of the FICO score, and you can think of it as an estimate. To test just how close my Vantage score was to my FICO score, I pulled my FICO score at the same time as I signed up for Quizzle. I found that my FICO score was within a few points of the Vantage score Quizzle gave me, and the difference was far too small to cause any lender to change their opinion about me. In the accounting world, we call this an immaterial difference.
Monitoring your own credit
After seeing that my score was OK, the next thing I did was look through all my accounts to make sure I didn’t see any problems. It showed that all my payments had been made, all the balances looked about right, there were no funny accounts I didn’t recognize, and no strange account inquiries I didn’t recognize. Check. Check. Check. Check. If I had seen a problem, then Quizzle had a link to dispute incorrect items directly with the credit agency to get them corrected.
If I had seen accounts I didn’t recognize or inquiries from companies I didn’t do business with I would have known that there might be some kind of identity theft going on and I would have to investigate further. Although there are companies that will monitor your credit for a monthly fee (more on that later), I don’t use any of those. Quizzle lets me check my credit report for free once ever 6 months, and that is good enough for me. If I ever have a problem we will see if my opinion on that changes.
This is where Quizzle really shines. After I have seen my credit report I can look at Quizzle’s analysis to see their recommendations on how to improve my score. My opinion is that this analysis was pretty great. The tips it gave were simple and easy to follow. They were no longer than a sentence or two long so that anybody could understand them no matter what their level of financial education was. It didn’t go into as much detail as a guy like me would have liked, but was clearly made for everybody to understand.
This section gives me Quizzle’s top 4 tips on how I can improve my credit score. The first one tells me my score would be higher if my mortgage balances weren’t so high (I own my home plus a rental home) and the second tip says my average account age is too low. This makes sense because I like to refinance every time I can get a little better rate and grab a new credit card anytime one comes out with better rewards than my old card, so this tip is showing me that if I wouldn’t be quite so greedy my score would be a little better. I’m OK with that.
This chart is showing me that although my credit utilization is OK, my score would go up if I could pay my balances down a little bit. I will make that a goal.
Safety and Privacy
Is it safe to use Quizzle? While I can’t personally make a recommendation on this, here is what their website has to say regarding privacy:“Quizzle does not share your personal information outside the Quizzle Family of Companies for promotional use.”
So will provide your information to the long list of companies found on this page, but won’t share it with other companies. Honestly, this doesn’t really make me feel better. I would expect that my junk mail will start going up, so be sure to sign up for Quizzle using your junk mail account, not your real email account. Also, why do the Cleveland Cavaliers need my information?
A lot of websites have lousy privacy policies involving third party service providers, so I was glad to see this:“Service providers are strictly prohibited from using your personally identifiable information for purposes other than to act on our behalf.”
Although all of what I described above is free, there is also a premium service called Quizzle Pro that costs $8 per month. While the free service gives you a credit report and score every 6 months Quizzle Pro gives you a credit report and score every month as well as constant credit monitoring.
Is it worth it? Maybe, but it isn’t worth it for me. If you are paying your bills on time and not making many changes to your financial accounts, then you are unlikely to see big changes in your credit score from month to month, so taking a look at it every six months is enough for me. When it comes to credit monitoring, remember that credit monitoring doesn’t stop anybody from taking out credit as if they were you, it only detects it after it happens. Because I have never had any problems with identity theft I don’t think I will be paying $8/ month ($96/ year) for this constant credit monitoring. As I said above, if I had ever had a problem with identity theft I might feel differently about this.
All in all, it looks like Quizzle is a pretty good place to get information about your credit report. It will give you genuinely free information from your credit report as well as great tips on what you can do to improve your score. The downside is that this is all paid for with advertising so you can expect to see plenty of ads when you are on Quizzle (to be fair, you will also see plenty of ads on this site also. There is one right below this sentence.) and I wouldn’t be too surprised if a little extra information starts showing up in your junk mail folder.
Note: I was not paid by Quizzle.com to write this review.