4 Ways To Get Your Free Credit Score

4 Ways To Get Your Free Credit Score

ABOUT FICO SCORES

FICO® Scores are the most widely used credit scores. An industry standard since they were first introduced over 30 years ago, FICO® Scores are used by 90% of top lenders. Learn more.

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Which Credit Score Should You Check?

When you check your credit, you’ll likely receive either a FICO® or VantageScore credit score. Your score will depend on which scoring model is being used and which credit report is being analyzed (because your credit reports likely aren’t identical).

The type of score might not matter if you’re looking for an estimate of where you stand or want to track whether your score is going up or down. Fortunately, credit scores tend to move in a similar direction as they all analyze your credit reports with the same general goal in mind.

Creditors can choose which score to use, and they don’t have to disclose which of your credit reports or which score they are going to request ahead of time.

Knowing at least one of your general-use FICO® Scores, such as FICO® Score 8, could be helpful as creditors often use a FICO® Score when evaluating new credit applications. Also, many mortgage lenders use the earlier FICO® models mentioned above to comply with federal regulations. Knowing those three FICO® Scores could be helpful if you’re shopping for a mortgage.

How to access your report

You can request a free copy of your credit report from each of three major credit reporting agencies – Equifax®, Experian®, and TransUnion® – once each year at AnnualCreditReport.com or call toll-free 1-877-322-8228. You’re also entitled to see your credit report within 60 days of being denied credit, or if you are on welfare, unemployed, or your report is inaccurate.

It’s a good idea to request a credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies and to review them carefully, as each one may contain inconsistent information or inaccuracies. If you spot an error, request a dispute form from the agency within 30 days of receiving your report.

How Credit Karma Makes Money

Credit Karma’s business model is not entirely altruistic. It is a for-profit business that makes money by giving you a free credit score in exchange for learning more about your spending habits and charging companies to serve you targeted advertisements.

Credit Karma places advertisements in front of its users, hoping that they will respond to them by clicking on them. Many of these advertisers are lenders, and Credit Karma may earn a fee if you apply through one of its links.

Your personal data is valuable stuff to advertisers, and they pay more to target it. With more than 100 million users, this is a healthy revenue model for Credit Karma.

Second Stop: My Banker

We just completed the building of our dream home earlier this year and refinanced when rates dropped a few months back, so I knew that my bank would have our most recent credit scores.  I contacted my banker to see what scores they had on me.

This is what I got from them:

“776 / 765 / 773    These are from all three credit bureaus.  Also, these are mortgage report credit scores which will be lower than credit scores that you would pull.”

Did you catch that?  Look again:

“….these are mortgage report credit scores…..”

Mortgage report credit scores….what the heck is that? (this is the classic phrase that my Phillipino mother says all the time.  Love you mom!)  Now thoroughly perplexed, I emailed my banker to see exactly what that meant.  His second response: (I’m sure he’s loving me by the way)

“I found out about a year ago, that Freddie & Fannie had been working with the three credit bureaus to set up a scoring model for the purpose of mortgage loan requests.  The mortgage scoring is tougher then the normal consumer scoring.  Both are FICO scores utilizing the same system, but as one example, consumer models don’t give a lot of weight to collection items, whereas the mortgage scoring system does.  People who have collection items on their credit will score lower with the mortgage scoring system then the traditional consumer scoring system.  That’s one of the examples, but since FICO is a proprietary system, the public knows very little about the full details that go into your score.”

After I read the email, this was my response:  Huh?

I knew at this time I was in way over my head.

Just like a typical male that won’t stop to ask directions when he’s completely lost, I trudged on hoping to find my answer of what my real credit score is. Next stop MyFico.com.

After going through this process, I have also learned that CreditKarma.com is also another option in retrieving your free credit score.  They pull your credit score from TransUnion.

How To Check Your Credit Scores (Including Your FICO® Scores)

Now that we’ve made all this fuss about FICO® scores, you probably want to know what yours are, right?

Here’s are FICO® Score 8 ranges according to FICO:

  • Excellent: 800 and above
  • Very good: 740-799
  • Good: 670-739
  • Fair: 580-669
  • Poor: 579 and below

These ranges are somewhat subjective since lenders base their decisions on more than just credit scores.

To see where you fall, try the Discover Credit Scorecard, which gives a free FICO® score to anyone who signs up for an account.

Or, for more options, here’s a list of all the places you can get your FICO® scores for free. It also includes websites where you can get other free credit scores, like your VantageScores®.

While you’re at it, you should probably check your credit reports. They’re what your credit scores are based on, so if they’re not correct, your credit scores won’t be either. You can get one free credit report per year, per bureau at AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also use services like Credit Karma to monitor two of your VantageScore® 3.0 credit scores on a regular basis.

Fifth Stop: Getting a Second Expert Opinion

Then I checked with Philip Tirone, a mortgage broker and the author of 7 Steps to a 720 Credit Score, from 720CreditScore.com. Philip echoed what Liz said, and then he added this:

“The consumer education score is worthless because no lender will ever use it. And because it is almost always higher than a FICO score, the consumer score gives a person an artificial sense of security about their credit score. They would be much better off getting the scores directly from FICO and ignoring the consumer scores entirely.”

Philip added that 100 percent of the credit scores that he reviews in his capacity as a mortgage broker have been based on the FICO score.

Okay, but I’m still confused. Where do TransUnion and Experian come into play?

Philip explained,

“There are three primary credit-reporting bureaus—TransUnion, Experian, and Equaifax—who are responsible for collecting your credit information and applying a formula to the information: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. So you have a TransUnion FICO score and a TransUnion consumer score, and so on and so forth. When a lender pulls your credit score (and as I’ve noticed, this will always be your FICO score), the lender actually gets three scores, one from each of the three bureaus. The lender ignores the high score and the low score, looking at the one that falls in the middle, and assigning interest rates only.”

Philip went on to explain that only TransUnion and Equifax sell both FICO and consumer scores to the public. If you buy a score from Experian, it will always be the consumer score.

Get Your Free Experian Credit Report >>>

Assuming what I’ve written is true, I also suggest inserting this after: “It was my understanding that most mortgage lenders use the classic FICO  score, which is what you get at MyFico.com. The scores  will be  different day-to-day (and even sometimes intraday) because the information in your credit files is constantly changing.”

This explains why the scores I got from MyFICO were different from the scores I got from the lender—they were pulled on different days. You can read more about how Experian pulled the plugged from allowing consumers to purchase their credit score at Credit Cards.com.

2. American Express® credit cards

American Express gives cardholders access to their free FICO® score, as well as 12 months of FICO® score history. The FICO® score provided is based on your Experian® credit report. Your FICO® score is available through your online American Express account and gets updated periodically.

5. Credit unions

If you don’t like using credit cards, another option for getting your FICO® scores for free is through a credit union. Not all of them offer this benefit, but if you belong to one, it’s worth checking. A couple of larger credit unions that offer free FICO® scores are Navy Federal Credit Union and DCU Credit Union.

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The Bottom Line

Millions of people use Credit Karma to track their credit scores. The company is highly transparent and provides its services through VantageScore. Thus, it offers a reliable snapshot of your current credit status.

You can also use Credit Karma to spot inaccuracies in your credit report. As Hardeman advises, “Stay proactive and monitor your credit regularly so you can catch inaccuracies or fraudulent information. Make sure you dispute these inaccuracies before applying for credit.”

Keep in mind that there are other free options instead of Credit Karma or in addition to it. Your credit card issuer or bank may offer an update online. And, you have a legal right to a full copy of your credit report once a year, available at AnnualCreditReport.com.

Credit Karma can also help you research loan products. If you're in the market for a loan, a service that provides you with a recent credit score and current credit offers in one place can prove valuable.

Don't forget that these offers are Credit Karma's bread and butter. Its advertisers are eager to lend you money, and that may not be the best thing for your credit score.

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