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Thanks to a little thing called the Fair Credit Reporting Act, consumers are allowed to request a free copy of their credit report once a year from each of the three credit bureaus at AnnualCreditReport.com. What many consumers may not realize though is that their credit score is not included on their credit report. Those are two separate items and your credit score only appears on a credit report if it was requested. Consumers aren’t legally entitled to see their credit score for free each year from any of the credit bureaus, but they are able to access it for free in a number of different avenues.
Credit Cards With Free FICO Scores
According to Suze Orman on Mondays with Marlo, only Equifax and TransUnion will sell your credit score to you, but your Experian FICO score can no longer be purchased from Experian as of Feb 14, 2011. You may purchase your Experian score alone, but that’s not very helpful considering the majority of lenders use your FICO score when analyzing your credit risk. Previously, if you wanted to get your FICO score you would have to purchase it directly from FICO for about $20. Now, FICO has teamed up with some banks to provide you that score for free.
As of Last year FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) made a move to offer free credit scores to credit card members of Barclays, Discover, and First National Bank of Omaha.
- First Bankcard was first to offer free FICO scores to their members, followed by Barclays on an opt-in basis, and then Discover. First Bankcard originally offered a free FICO score to those with First National Bank of Omaha branded credit cards that could be seen on their online account. As of this year, all Union Bank customers have access to their score.
- Barclays also displays free FICO scores as part of their customers’ online account information and it also provides historical information so cardholders can track how their score has changed.
- Discover is the largest credit card provider to offer free FICO credit scores. Discover It cardmembers will be able to see their score online and also on their monthly statements. Discover’s disclaimer states that only primary cardholders will have access to their score.
One valid concern was whether or not access to your free FICO score would cause a bunch of soft inquiries on your credit report. Customers do not need to worry about any negative impacts by having access to their FICO score because it’s done through FICO’s Open Access Program.
Capital One recently launched their Credit Tracker Tool, which was originally only available to their Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® Cardmembers. Members can access the tool online to see their score and also receive alerts and have access to a credit simulator and get advice on building credit. Capital One gets their score for this service from TransUnion. Additionally, US Bank currently provides their US Bank Credit Card Internet Banking customers with a free Experian Credit Score.
Why Offer Free FICO Scores?
Since FICO is the top-dog in terms of credit scoring, consumers are going to want the best. Having access to the credit score that’s most widely used by US lenders will tell consumers where they stand so they can begin taking steps to either correct their score by building credit or take steps to maintain their excellent credit score. For those with access to FICO’s Open Access Program, you will be able to see the two most important factors affecting their credit score and also have access to educational material provided by FICO.
Where to get Free Credit Scores
There are many locations or service that offers your credit score for free, but it’s still not going to be your exact score. The following services below all offer free credit scores, but the problem is that they don’t get access to your full credit report since they do a soft-pull. So your credit score will still be close, but not exact. Here are our top suggestions:
- Credit Karma (CK)–This service is a favorite of mine and I am a member. Users get access to a score from TransUnion, which ranges from 100-900. Credit Karma members are given a report card for their credit that grades the consumer’s habits in five different credit areas. You will also get updates and notifications, see how your score compares to other CK members and simulate your credit score in the future using their credit score simulator tool.
- Credit Sesame –This service is very similar to CK, but I like them a little less even though my score is slightly higher (Sorry Sesame). Credit Sesame works with Experian to estimate your credit score and membership comes with tools, tips and advice for consumers. I like that they tell you what areas your score may be suffering in.
- Quizzle –When you sign up at Quizzle.com, you get a credit score from CE Analytics, a data analytics company that offers consumers a free credit score, called a CE Score. The CE Score ranges from 350-850. As a bonus, Quizzle also gives you access to your free credit report every 6 months from Equifax.
- Credit.com –This service works very similar to Credit Karma. When users sign up with Credit.com they are given access to a Credit Report Card that analyzes your performance in the five different credit areas. Using the same grading scale as high school students, users are given a grade in each category. The score estimates are provided from 5 different scoring models.
- FICO –FICO has a tool that asks a series of 10 questions about your credit and calculates an estimated score based on your responses. These results will most likely be the most inaccurate since it’s not using your social security number to pull the score from any scoring model. When I tried it out, my score was about 20 points lower at the highest estimated range compared to my score at CreditKarma.
The Future of Free Credit Scores
Director of the CFPB, Richard Cordray, is urging credit card companies to give customers free copies of their credit scores. He believes free access to your credit score will make it easier for consumers to spot problems with their credit report.
Although there are some critics who don’t believe credit education is the responsibility of the banks, I believe it will only be a matter of time before all banks offer free credit score to their customers, whether it is offered strictly from FICO or another credit scoring model.
*Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.
*The content in this article is accurate at the publishing date, and may be subject to changes per the card issuer.