Content of the material
- Options for Getting Your Free FICO Score
- Credit Cards
- Banks & Credit Unions
- Be one of the millions of users
- who check their FICO® Credit Score with Discover.
- 4. Bank of America
- Why Are My Credit Karma and My FICO Scores Different?
- Does Credit Karma Hurt Your Credit?
- What can lenders see on your credit report?
- Do free credit reports include FICO® Scores?
- Which Credit Score Should You Check?
- What does a credit score mean?
- Fifth Stop: Getting a Second Expert Opinion
- Third Stop: Credit Scores at
- 2. American Express® credit cards
- How is my FICO Score calculated?
- Options for Getting Free Non-FICO Scores
- Credit Karma
- Credit Sesame
Options for Getting Your Free FICO Score
There are a number of ways you can get your FICO score for free. Here are the most convenient.
A number of credit card issuers now offer free FICO scores as a perk to their customers. At the time of this writing, here are some of the bigger card issuers that offer free scores with some or all of their cards:
- American Express
- Bank of America
- Commerce Bank
Again, not all cards issued by these banks will have a free FICO score offer. If you carry a card from one of these banks, you can sign in to your account online to see if you have access to your score or call the toll-free number on the back of your card. Sometimes your score will appear on your paper statement.
Banks & Credit Unions
In many cases, you don’t even need a credit card to get access to your FICO score for free. Simply having an account at some banks and credit unions will get you that perk.
Again, you may find this when you log in to your account online, or you can call your bank to see if it’s available.
Be one of the millions of users
who check their FICO® Credit Score with Discover
“…very easy to understand.” “Always easy to work with Discover.” “Thank you for your help.”
4. Bank of America
Bank of America offers eligible cardholders free access to their FICO® score. The score provided is based on your TransUnion® credit report and updated each month. Plus you will also have access to a couple of useful charts.
The first tracks your recent scores over time, so you can see how you’ve been performing month to month. This can be helpful if you’ve been working to boost your credit. The second chart will show national FICO® score averages. This allows you to compare your score against others.
Why Are My Credit Karma and My FICO Scores Different?
VantageScore and FICO are the two big rivals in the credit rating business. Credit Karma uses VantageScore. Their models differ slightly in the weight they place on various factors in your spending and borrowing history.
Does Credit Karma Hurt Your Credit?
No. Using Credit Karma doesn't hurt your credit. When you access your information on Credit Karma, it counts as a "soft" inquiry that isn't reported to the credit bureaus. A "hard" inquiry, such as a lender's credit check when you apply for a loan, is reported.
What can lenders see on your credit report?
Your credit report provides a detailed summary of your credit history. It includes your personal information and lists details on your past and current credit accounts. It also documents each time you or a lender requests your credit report, as well as instances where your accounts have been passed on to a collection agency. Financial issues that are part of the public record, such as bankruptcies and foreclosures, are included, too.
Do free credit reports include FICO® Scores?
The free credit reports provided from Annualcreditreport.com don’t include your FICO Scores. If you’d like to know what your FICO Scores are, you can checkout where to get FICO Scores here.
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.
What does a credit score mean?
Your credit score is a numerical representation of your credit report that represents your creditworthiness. Scores can also be referred to as credit ratings, and sometimes as a FICO® Score, created by Fair Isaac Corporation, and typically range from 300 to 850.
FICO® Scores are comprised of five components that have associated weights:
- Payment history: 35%
- Amounts owed: 30%
- Length of credit history: 15%
- How many types of credit in use: 10%
- Account inquiries: 10%
Lenders use your credit score to evaluate your credit risk – generally, the higher your credit score, the lower your risk may be to the lender. To learn more, view how your credit score is calculated.
Did you know? Wells Fargo offers eligible customers free access to their FICO® Score ― plus tools, tips, and much more. Learn how to access your FICO Score.
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?
“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.
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.
Third Stop: Credit Scores at
Still curious I decided to actually purchase my credit score through MyFico.com. It cost me $25 bucks, but I didn’t care. I was on a mission. (Note: I have since learned that I could have signed up for a free trial to get my credit score for free. Crap.)
Thinking there would only be only one true credit score, it gave me two. One from TransUnion and the other from Equifax, which were 779 and 770 respectively.
Really? Two Credit Scores?!
So here’s what I’m looking at so far: 758, 776, 765, 773, 779, and 770. At this point I have no clue which one is the real deal. No more messing around. It was time to break out the big guns.
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.
How is my FICO Score calculated?
Your FICO Score is derived from information in your credit report. Your credit report is a history of how you’ve handled borrowed money in the past.
When it comes to calculating your credit score, your data falls into five categories. Each category influences your credit score. How much? It varies.
Here are the five categories. The percentages reflect the influence each has in determining how your FICO Score is calculated.
- Payment history (35 percent). Did you pay past credit accounts on time?
- Amounts owned (30 percent). How much do you owe? How does it compare to your available credit?
- Length of credit history (15 percent). How long have your credit accounts been established? What’s the oldest one?
- New credit (10 percent). How many new accounts have you opened in the last two years?
- Credit mix (10 percent). What types of credit accounts do you have? These might include credit card, mortgage loan, and installment loans.
The factors that go into a FICO Score are based on the borrowing habits of the general U.S. population. FICO may not determine your credit score in exactly the same way.
Options for Getting Free Non-FICO Scores
Once you’ve gotten your FICO score, you probably want to do what Clark does and check your non-FICO score as well. Even though most lenders use FICO scores, getting your non-FICO score can give you a more well-rounded picture of where you stand credit-wise.
Team Clark has tested multiple options for getting your VantageScore for free, and we have two clear favorites.
Credit Karma is a site that will give you two different scores for free: one based on your TransUnion credit report and one based on your Equifax credit report. Credit Karma calculates your score using VantageScore 3.0, which it explains like this:
“VantageScore 3.0 is a credit scoring model. It takes the information in your credit report and turns it into a score. There are many scoring models out there, including ones from FICO and other companies. Each one calculates your score a bit differently, but they all use information from your report.”
You might notice that the two scores can be different. That’s because the credit reports from the two bureaus can contain slightly different information at any given time depending on when creditors are reporting to them.
We recommend Credit Karma for a variety of reasons — not the least of which is its robust “Credit Score Simulator.”
With the Credit Score Simulator, you can see how your credit score would likely change if you were to take any number of actions, including:
- Getting a new loan
- Opening a new credit card
- Transferring balances to a new card
- Closing your oldest credit card
- Getting a credit limit increase
- Increasing or decreasing your balances
- Letting accounts go past due
- Having an account sent to collections
Playing around with the simulator can give you a good sense of how much these activities affect your credit score as well as which actions you could take to improve it — and by how much.
Signing up for Credit Karma is much the same as signing up for Discover Credit Scorecard. All you have to do is create an account, give some basic information and confirm your identity by answering a few security questions.
While not quite as robust as Credit Karma, Credit Sesame is another option for getting your free non-FICO score. Credit Sesame also uses VantageScore 3.0, but you only get one score, and it’s based on your TransUnion credit report.
Signing up for Credit Sesame is similar to the other services we’ve mentioned. Your free subscription will also get you access to credit monitoring, a debt analysis tool and a nominal amount of “identity theft insurance.”