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Your credit score, that mysterious 3-digit number, can affect your finances in a myriad of ways. It can affect your mortgage rate, auto insurance premium, credit card offers, and even your employment. Therefore, protecting your score is critical, and it starts with knowing what it is. Here are several ways to check your credit score for free.
- Before Checking Your Credit Score for Free
- FREE FICO Score
- Free VantageScore
- Credit Cards Offering Free Scores
- Credit Score vs. Credit Report
- Free Credit Score FAQs
A good credit score can save you thousands of dollars in interest over your lifetime. It can lower your auto insurance premiums and qualify you for a 0% credit card. A good score can shave tens of thousands of dollars in interest off your mortgage by qualifying you for a lower rate. It even can help you land that perfect job. Getting access to your credit scores, however, can be both confusing and expensive.
Before Checking Your Credit Score for Free
There are two things to consider when getting your credit score: (1) what credit scoring formula is used; and (2) which credit bureau's data is used to calculate your score.
Credit Score Formula
The two primary credit scoring formulas are FICO and VantageScore. The vast majority of lenders use FICO scores in their underwriting process. Further, the majority of mortgage lenders are required to use FICO scores by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Thus, if you are looking to get a mortgage or other loan soon, your FICO score is the key.
That said, I've found the VantageScore to be useful if my goal is to improve and monitor my credit. The scoring model, currently VantageScore 3.0, produces a score that in my experience is very close to the FICO score. It uses the same credit score range (300 to 850).
The second factor to consider is which of the three credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion, Experian) is used to pull your credit data. Because they can each have slightly different information concerning your credit history, they can produce different credit scores even when the same formula is used.
If you are planning on buying a home, getting your FICO score based on data from all three is important. Otherwise, your score based on just one credit bureau's data is usually sufficient.
FREE FICO Score
Wells Fargo offers free access to FICO scores to its online customers. Part of the bank's planning and tools section, it pulls the primary account holders FICO 9 score and updates it monthly.
Discover offers free access to your FICO 8 score. The score is available to anyone, there's no requirement that you be a customer of Discover. In addition, Discover will notify you if any new loans or other accounts appear on your Experian credit report.
You can get free access to your FICO Score 8 directly from Experian.
Bank of America
BofA offers free access to FICO scores for cardholders through its online and mobile banking platforms.
Barclaycard cardmembers can access their FICO score for free.
Citibank offers some of its cardholders access to their FICO score. Unfortunately, it's a specialized version of the score–FICO Bankcard Score 8. It has a range that's different than the standard FICO range, and it's not used by mortgage lenders.
In an effort to help its auto finance customers better understand their credit health, Ally Bank began offering customers free access to their FICO® Score. The pilot program began in February, but the full launch of this service isn’t slated until this summer. Either way, Ally car loan customers will soon get their FICO score for free.
If you’re in the market for a car loan, it might be worth it to see how Ally’s rates stack up. And if you’re already an Ally customer, look for your FICO score soon, as well as other financial tools and resources they offer. The bank recently described those other financial offerings in a press release:
“Ally has worked to advance consumer financial education for many years and since 2011, more than 61,000 consumers have taken our Wallet Wise financial literacy curriculum on the topics of credit, budget, banking and investing, and auto financing,” said Jeffrey Brown, president and chief executive officer of Ally's Dealer Financial Services business. “We continue to believe that consumer education about financial matters is among the best defense.”
3-in-1 FICO Score
If you want to get your FICO score base on all three credit bureaus, it may be worth spending some money. FICO offers access to all three scores for a relatively small fee. You can get the details here.
In addition to offering a free FICO score based on its own data, Experian offers 3-Bureau Credit Report and FICO scores for a reasonable fee.
Credit Karma gives its members access to their VantageScore 3.0 credit score based on data from TransUnion and Equifax.
In addition to a free credit score, Credit Karma offers an in-depth look at how your credit score is calculated. It provides tips on how to improve your score and those factors that are hurting your score.
As noted above, Credit Karma gives access to VantageScore 3.0 based on both Experian and TransUnion data. Credit Sesame offers its members access to their VantageScore 3.0 based just on TransUnion data. As such, it makes sense to use Credit Karma. But Credit Sesame is still an option.
Equifax offers free access to your VantageScore 3.0 based, of course, on Equifax data. The score is available through the Equifax Core Credit program.
Credit Cards Offering Free Scores
As you can see from the above list, several credit card issuers offer free access to your credit score. Some offer FICO scores while others offer VantageScore 3.0. You'll find a regularly updated list of cards that offer free credit scores here.
Credit Score vs. Credit Report
It's important not to confuse your credit score with your credit report. They are two different yet related things. Your credit report comes from one of the three major credit bureaus mentioned above. The report provides a host of data about you and your history with credit and debt. It does not, however, include a credit score or other assessment of the quality of your credit history.
In contrast, a credit score is a numerical assessment of your credit history. It's a grade. To generate a credit score, you need both the data from a credit report and a formula to generate the score (e.g., FICO, VantageScore). We've covered how to get your free credit score above.
If you’re less concerned with your credit score and more worried about the actual contents in your report, it might be wise to get a free copy of your full credit report. Currently, AnnualCreditReport.com is the place to get a copy of your credit report for free.
Normally you can get your credit report for free once each year from each credit bureau. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, however, you can get free weekly access for the next 12 months.
Free Credit Score FAQs
Does getting more credit score for free hurt my score?
No. You can view your own credit score without hurting your score. Such inquires are not hard pulls, the term used in the industry for an inquiry that can affect your score, on your credit.
What is the best site to get my free FICO score?
While there are several good options, my favorite is Discover. You don't have to be a Discover cardholder, and the website provides a lot of information about your credit score.
Are credit score sites safe?
Generally, yes. The sites use the latest technology to secure their websites, for the most part. Yet there is always a risk whenever you disclose confidential information online.