How to Get Your Free Credit Score

Category: Finance

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.

Free Credit Score

(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., 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.

TIP: Don't confuse your Credit SCORE with your Credit REPORT. Here's info on how to get a Free Credit Report, without getting ripped off.

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...

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Most recent comments on "How to Get Your Free Credit Score"

Posted by:

19 Mar 2013

Credit Karma simply does not work, Bob. Just for the fun of it, I tried everything I could think of and the software tells me I'm using the wrong password. After a half-dozen tries, I gave up.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Sorry you had trouble, it worked for me. And I know many thousands use it, so hopefully it was a fluke.

Posted by:

Gloria Huffman
19 Mar 2013

THE *ONE* official place to get your once-a-year government-mandated free annual credit report from the 3 major credit bureaus:

"The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires each of the nationwide credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months."

For some reason, I had to submit one of the three requests by snail mail on last year's order, but I did eventually receive the report.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Yes, I mentioned this in my article on credit reports. (See This article deals with credit scores, which are related, but quite different.

Posted by:

19 Mar 2013

As someone who has worked in automotive finance for 20 years, I can honestly say that far too much emphasis is placed on these scores. I've seen far too many people with clearly good credit history be denied for the low advertised rates based on their scores. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen one person have two completely opposite credit scores. Or a college student with one flimsy $500 piece of credit, with a score in the 700's. I've also seen the opposite as well--people who have perfect credit--not one blemish, debt-to-income well in line--but the score that comes up is in the low 600's, or often times even in the 500's. A significant reason for that is that these scores do not factor in a person's income. A person might carry a heavy debt load, but in relation to their income, it's very manageable. But the FICO algorithms cannot see that.

The FICO scoring system overall is a racket...and I mean it. Firstly, the score itself is derived by an intensely complicated set of algorithms, such that people in the industry, like myself, can only have an IDEA of how it works, but not FULLY know. Most employees in the credit bureaus themselves don't even know how these are calculated. It's a better-kept secret than the recipe for Coke.

The second thing that is important to know about the elusiveness of these scores is that there are literally DOZENS of different versions of these scores, even within the same bureau. Any of these scores you get online will pretty much guaranteed NOT match what your lender is looking at. For one thing, there are specialized bureau scores that are used within industries: for example, when you apply for a car loan, the dealership and the lenders you are submitted to will look at what's called an Auto-Enhanced credit score, in which the car history is more heavily weighted in the calculation of the score. Same goes for the mortgage industry (weighting your mortgage and installment credit history more), and I suspect maybe a few other industries as well. These scores are also altered slightly to allow for the nature of the car or mortgage buying process.

Consumer Reports currently has a petition campaign that they want to send to our lawmakers to compel them to REQUIRE the credit bureau system to come up with more uniform standards of scoring, and make those all readily available to the average consumer in much the same way that our credit reports are currently made available to us. I've already signed my name to it. I think you have to be a member to sign it, but a copy of it was posted in the forum at this site:

Posted by:

Stuart Brown
19 Mar 2013

You neglected to mention that Walmart credit card holders get a free FICO score if they opt out of paper statements. Great service.

EDITOR'S NOTE: I didn't neglect it. I just didn't know. :-) Thanks for the tip!

Posted by:

20 Mar 2013

Yeah, Bob. It can certainly be manipulated by the banks. Part way into the current recession, all my banks ('cept one)cut my credit lines back to $100.00 over my current balances. Although I never have missed a payment and never even been late on even one single payment, that action cut my credit score by about 80 points. The scoring systems are unfair and decidedly arcane in their interpretation of data. But at least these days we get to see them.

Posted by:

20 Mar 2013

I just did the credit Karma and it worked for me and my husband.

Posted by:

21 Mar 2013

Hey, Tim from Quizzle here. Thanks for spreading the word about us! It's great that people are interested in staying on top of their credit situation. As someone mentioned earlier, your credit score is good to use as a rough guidance point, but what truly matters is your REPORT. Keep calm and Quizzle on everyone!

Posted by:

21 Mar 2013

Quizzle works. It also gives recommendations.

Posted by:

28 Feb 2014

None of your three options is available to those of us who live outside the States. As they used to say about Red Rose Tea in England, "PITY".

Posted by:

16 Apr 2014

Hey Bob, Great article! It's very honest and it helped me make my final decision to go with Credit Karma, even if they don't give FICO. I also found this helpful comparison:

P.S. Credit score world is so much confusing... Looks like these free score companies are banking really hard on us!

EDITOR'S NOTE: I get these all the time. Someone posts a "helpful link," claiming to be impartial, but they're actually trying to promote their own site, or are being paid to promote a site. In this case (I've obscured the URL) it was easy to catch because the IP address of the commenter and the website are both in Poland. Poor English on the site was another tipoff.

Posted by:

22 Mar 2016

Hey Bob,

Thanks for posting. I just wanted to let you and your readers know about WalletHub as another option here. Currently, it's the first and only website to free credit scores, reports and monitoring updated DAILY. The credit score is the VantageScore, not FICO's, just fyi.

Here is the link:

Posted by:

18 Mar 2018

thanks for the update!
These companies give estimated scores...
Is there any that hit close to the FICO score?

Posted by:

21 Mar 2019

I do not mind telling you, after all many know it anyway especially my banks. My credit fico score is 760

Be aware some of you, it is really the FICO score that matters to many of the higher end banks. Equaifax (the trash reporting agency, I do not trust this agency at all as when they were broken into (Hacked), they did not tell us for 2 months and also sold off alot of things to look good) Transunion, Experian etc do not mean much but do give you a good idea. But many want your true credit score and that is FICO score, keep good credit anything over 725 is good and anything over 750 is excellent or so my bank told me..

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- How to Get Your Free Credit Score (Posted: 19 Mar 2013)
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