Note: This service used to be called “Credit Tracker.” Capital One rebranded it as Creditwise in early 2016.
CreditWise (formerly Credit Tracker) is a free online credit-tracking service (and mobile app) that lets all consumers (not just cardholders) view one of their credit scores, the factors affecting it and the consequences of their future credit behaviors. It even allows consumers to simulate their scores under different behavior scenarios, which can be very instructive.
What it does
CreditWise has no limits on how often you can access its features – and it has quite a few of them, including:
- The ability to view your TransUnion VantageScore (version 3.0)
- Updates about changes to your TransUnion credit report that could affect your credit or even indicate ID theft (such as delinquent accounts, inquiries and new accounts opened in your name).
- A credit dashboard with a report card feature that grades you on the key factors influencing your credit score. It also shows a bureau summary from TransUnion that has your balances, monthly payments, number of accounts and number of inquiries. Check out this example:
How it compares
Capital One isn’t the first to offer free credit scores or credit tracking. A few issuers provide free FICOs, and several free online services allow you to monitor your credit. So how does Capital One’s service stack up?
One thing to keep in mind is that the score provided by CreditWise is not a FICO score. It’s a VantageScore, which some lenders do use — but isn’t as popular as FICO.
If you want a free FICO score, a couple major issuers do offer them to cardholders. In May 2016, Discover announced its own free credit-tracking-and-scoring service (Credit Scorecard), which is available to everyone (not just cardholders) and provides your free Experian FICO score. CreditWise, however, offers some additional features — for example, the prediction tool, which allows you to forecast how new credit applications wouldaffect your score.
So, for consumers, it’s a trade-off: You’re not getting a real-deal FICO, but you’re privy to quite a bit of extra information on your credit that could prove very valuable. Perhaps the best option is to sign up for as many free services as you can (CreditWise, Discover’s Credit Scorecard, Credit Karma and the many other free credit-score websites out there).
What about other free credit-tracking services, such as Credit Karma and Credit Sesame, that don’t require you to be a Capital One Customer? Capital One’s service is very similar.
Is it worthwhile?
That depends on how you use the service.
If you’re shopping for a major loan (such as a mortgage), you’ll want your real FICO credit scores because those are what the lenders will most likely check. CreditWise won’t give you those – but hard numbers aren’t necessarily where you gain the most utility from this (or any free credit tracker). Such services are more useful for those who want to see what’s boosting (or dragging down) their credit and estimate what certain actions will do to their credit health.
It’s somewhat analogous to leading a healthy lifestyle. It’s not always about the actual number on the scale, but rather about knowing which behaviors might eventually lead to better health – which can gradually improve that number. CreditWise will warn you about your unhealthily high credit utilization or about the risks of going on an application spree, for example. Using that advice over time (and tracking your progress) will ultimately translate into a better FICO score.
“It’s all about using your credit wisely and leading a healthy financial life,” wrote Sahni in an email to CreditCardForum.
The service, with its free alerts, could also give you an early warning if a new account is fraudulently opened in your name (a service you’d otherwise have to pay for via the credit bureaus), but there’s an important caveat: CreditWise monitors only your TransUnion report. You should still check your credit reports from Equifax and Experian regularly.
Updated May 25, 2016