How to Get Your Free Credit Score
Your credit score is one of the most important numbers in your financial life. This one number summarizes your creditworthiness, and it's the first thing lenders look at when you apply for a loan, and often the last. Learn how a credit SCORE is different from a credit REPORT, and find out how to get your credit score, for free...
Get Your Credit Score for Free
Your credit score is a number ranging from 300-850, with lower numbers representing a "poor credit risk" and higher ones indicating an "excellent credit risk." Your credit score can make a difference of several hundred dollars a month in your mortgage or car payment.
You may even be unable to get credit at all if your credit score is terrible. But do you know what your credit score is right now?
Most people don't know their credit scores. They may know what it was the last time they applied for a loan, but it may have changed since then. Perhaps your own credit activity triggered a change in your credit score. But identity theft is a growing problem, and ID thieves may be ruining your credit score without your knowledge.
(See my related article Ten Identity Theft Protection Tips.)
It's a good idea to monitor your credit score regularly to be on the lookout for changes that require investigation. Just checking your score will not affect your rating, but it can be costly to monitor your credit score. Fortunately, if you know where to look, you can find out your credit score for free.
Free Credit Score... With Strings Attached
Yes, there lots of places online that offer a "free credit score" - one time, with strings attached. You'll have to fork over a credit card number for a trial subscription to an ongoing credit monitoring service. MyFICO.com, as well as the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion) all offer this type of credit monitoring service as an incentive to give you access to your credit scores.
Wait, scores? Yes, consumers have at least THREE credit scores -- one from each of the aforementioned credit reporting agencies. These "FICO scores" are the numbers that most lenders use when deciding whether to offer a loan. Each of the major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) use a proprietary scoring method developed and licensed by the Fair Isaac Corporation to calculate your FICO credit score. Usually they're all pretty close. But incorrect, inconsistent, or missing information in your credit files can cause them to differ. But beware... the one-time free credit score is just the bait on a hook...
Firms that make such offers are required by law to let you cancel a subscription without penalty during a trial period, which can range from only 7 to a more reasonable 30 days. But many people forget to cancel and get locked into contracts that can cost from $5 a month to over $100 a year. If you are diligent and highly organized, this might be a good way to get your credit score for free. But if you flirt with the bait regularly, the odds are that one day you will get hooked too.
If you're merely curious and you want just an estimate of your FICO credit score, MyFICO offers a free Credit Score Estimator. The estimator asks you ten questions about your finances and provides you with a range in which they think your score will fall. The nice thing about this tool is that no credit card is required, and you don't have to cough up any personally identifying information. The downside is that it could be way off, and banks will only use the actual FICO score when making lending decisions.
Some banks and major retailers offer ongoing credit score monitoring as part of their services. If you're lucky enough to be a member, the Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union provides free monthly FICO scores. Other credit unions and credit card providers may have similar perks. If you are shopping for a new bank or credit card, try to negotiate free credit score monitoring as part of any package you hope to put together.
But don't kid yourself. Whoever gives you a credit score is paying something to the Big Three for it. You're probably paying for it somewhere among all the other charges you get from any service provider.
A Truly FREE Credit Score?
There are a few exceptions that I have found: Credit Karma is advertiser-supported, so you will be presented with offers from credit card companies and other lenders after you give your personal information, in exchange for your credit score. But you won't have to cough up a credit card number or commit to a subscription service. You will have to provide your social security number, to verify your identity. Credit Karma has an excellent rating with the BBB, and they're been around for several years, so I feel comfortable recommending this service.
One important caveat is that Credit Karma does not give you your official "FICO" credit score. Instead, Credit Karma provides you three credit scores from TransUnion, each calculated with a different proprietary scoring model. These three are the TransRisk score, the VantageScore (developed jointly by all three major credit bureaus), and the Auto Insurance Score, which is calculated using data derived from a consumer's credit report. The upside is that these are a pretty good estimate of your FICO credit score, and a good way to monitor trends in the ups and downs of your credit score. CreditKarma also offers a free Credit Score Simulator that will show you how certain financial transactions and decisions will affect your credit score over time, and some other financial tools.
Another free option is Credit Sesame, which provides your Experian credit score from and an overview of your credit and debt situation. Credit Sesame uses a patented "bank-level analytics engine", which continually analyzes the lending markets, in search of ways for you to save money on loans, credit card debts and your home mortgage. Again, this is not the FICO score, but that doesn't make it worthless. The score that Credit Sesame gives you is called the "Experian National Equivalency Score", which should be a good estimate of your FICO score, and is actually used by some commercial lenders. No credit card is required to use the Credit Sesame service.
Finally, there's Quizzle, a subsidiary of the company that also owns Quicken Loans and the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team. (It's always good to diversify, right?) Quizzle offers something calleld the "CE credit score", which is derived from the data on your Experian credit report. Quizzle lets you check your credit score every six months, and offers tools to help you manage credit cards, as well as auto, student and home loans. It's unique from the others in that neither credit card nor Social Security number are required.
Got something to say about getting your free credit score? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 19 Mar 2013
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- How to Get Your Free Credit Score (Posted: 19 Mar 2013)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved