Last month, TransUnion Interactive, a division of TransUnion, began advertising a brand new debt and credit management website and service called ZenDough. For a $15 per month fee (or approximately $180 per year) you will be able to “begin your path to financial mastery.“ This service will give you:
*access to your credit reports from all three major credit bureaus: TransUnion, Experian and Equifax,
*a ZenDough “Snapshot” of your debt and credit position
*a summary of your accounts
*your FICO credit score (300-850) and grade (A-F)
*the 6 secrets to your determining your score
*personal ID theft case management and risk assessment
*credit ID email alerts
*assistance with credit report disputes
*debt analysis- debt-to-income ratio
There is a Free Trial period, which is actually 7 days. If you don’t wish to continue with the service you must call and cancel before the trial period ends otherwise you will start receiving a monthly bill.
In, fact almost all of the above listed items can be obtained for free or done by yourself very easily. With respect to accessing your credit reports, according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, each person is allowed to get a free credit report once per year from each of the three main credit bureaus: TransUnion, Experian and Equifax, which can be requested by mail or online through AnnualCreditReport.com.
You are also entitled to an additional free report if:
*You were denied or notified of an adverse action in the last 60 days, related to credit, insurance, employment or government related licensing or benefits as a result of information on your credit report.
*You were denied a house or apartment rental in the last 60 days and were made to pay a higher deposit because of negative information on your credit report.
*You provide proof of unemployment and interview for jobs within a 60 day period.
*You provide written certification that you receive welfare assistance.
*You provide written certification that you believe your credit file at a specific agency is inaccurate because of fraudulent activity.
*Your state allows for a free annual report in addition to the three others, e.g. New Jersey.
Getting a free credit report does not include a free score, but through annualcreditreport.com it costs approximately $10. If you stagger your reports throughout the year-pull one every 3-4 months- then check you score annually, you will have a clear picture of what your credit profile and behavior look like.
The credit bureaus have made the reports more user friendly, clearly listing your personal information, fraud alerts, collections accounts and civil actions (if any) and a list of your debts by account, payment history, ownership and classification.
The three bureaus are very similar in the way that they calculate your score based on
the Fair Isaac Corporation rating system. There may be slight score variations but if the difference is more pronounced, inaccuracies or identity theft could be the cause. Since account statements are available online or mailed monthly, reviewing the statements regularly will alert you to fraudulent or unauthorized charges and if the fraudulent activity is reported within 60 days of getting your statement, generally you will not be liable once the credit card company or bank determines your claim is valid.
Fair Isaac has a very informative website: MyFico.com that provides consumer education and information on how their scoring is determined, how to read a report and how to best manage your debt. It stands to reason that if your credit score is 450 your “grade” is probably a “D” and if your score is 800 it deserves an “A“.
Part of ZenDough’s service is to show you how to dispute inaccuracies on your report; they don‘t do it for you. At the Federal Trade Commission’s website FTC.gov there is a variety of consumer guides, articles and alerts, and a dispute form that can be downloaded. The site also explains the steps needed to file a dispute, which should always be done in writing.
The remaining service that ZenDough offers is a debt-to-income evaluation and ratio. Well, if you add up the monthly payments you make on all of your debt and add up all of your monthly income sources, that should give you the totals and the ratio. Obviously if the ratio is high, that is not a good indicator.
To summarize, although ZenDough does have an attractive site, virtually all of the services they provide for $180 per year you can do yourself using annualcreditreport.com, myfico.com, and ftc.gov and the cost will only be $10 to get an annual credit score ($20 if you want to check it every six months).