Ah, the credit score—an incredibly powerful three digit number that’s surprisingly hard to obtain. Luckily, the days of having to pay for your credit score are over. And that’s a great thing, because if lenders are using it to evaluate you, shouldn’t you be entitled to see it? There are many resources now that provide free credit scores to consumers, and we want to discuss some of them here. Keep in mind that not all of these resources are created equal, and there are a few differences that you’ll want to pay close attention to.
There are a few particular credit cards that offer free credit scores to their cardholders. While we don’t advocate for specific card companies, a few that offer this perk include Discover and Barclaycard.
The catch: There are a few catches here to be aware of:
- Some credit cards only offer the score at sign up or for the first thirty days (retaining this benefit for a longer time requires a monthly fee)
- Some credit card companies don’t provide a FICO score, but instead give an educational score that may not be as reliable as FICO
- Many credit cards that offer this perk (like Discover and Barclaycard) require good to excellent credit, making this option difficult to pursue for many consumers.
Some Credit Inquiries
When you apply for certain types of credit, you may be given a copy of your credit score. One classic example is that mortgage lenders have to disclose your credit score when they pull it as part of the loan approval process. Other examples, noted by the CFPB, include when creditors use your score and:
- deny your application
- increase the cost of your credit, or
- offer you a higher rate than other consumers get from that creditor
The catch: The obvious catch is that in some cases here, you’re getting your credit score because you didn’t qualify, which means it’s not high enough to meet the lender’s expectations. The other catch, is that you shouldn’t use these methods strictly as a way to get a free score. For instance, a hard inquiry from a mortgage lender will ding your score a few points, and that isn’t worth it just to see the score.
Credit Score Estimators
There are a variety of credit score estimating tools out there which are free and easy to use. You typically fill out a brief questionnaire about your debts, income, age of accounts and payment history. These can be good tools if you just want a general idea of where you stand and don’t want to provide any personal information. Two of the best estimators are available at FICO and credit.com.
The catch: Well this one is obvious. The catch here is simply that you aren’t receiving a score—you are just getting an estimate. This would be a good tool for someone who is just establishing credit or doesn’t need to know a firm number and isn’t pursuing a big purchase like a mortgage in the near future.
Free Credit Score Websites
One of the biggest changes to the credit score landscape in the last few years has been the momentum behind free credit score websites like Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, Quizzle and others. These sites have strived to make credit scores and reports more accessible, which is something we stand behind as well. However, it’s not a perfect system.
The catch: There are two main catches to these websites. We aren’t saying these are dealbreakers or warrant that you avoid the sites altogether, but they are things you should definitely keep in mind. First, these sites don’t offer FICO scores. That’s right—they aren’t giving you the authoritative score most likely to be used by lenders, which means you should think of them as close estimates rather than the real deal.
The other catch here involves marketing tactics. While these sites are definitely providing a service by offering free credit scores to you, they have other motives as well. You should be on guard for credit card offers and other recommendations that may or may not be in your best financial interest.
Credit counseling agencies have been a trusted consumer resource for quite some time. Frequently recommended by groups like the FTC and CFPB, credit counselors work with consumers to provide a professional perspective on their budget and credit standing and make personalized suggestions to improve the client’s overall financial health. This service is provided for free, and then the client may choose other services, like a Debt Management Program, that typically has monthly service fees.
Historically, credit counselors have provided free credit report reviews for their clients, but now they are also able to provide free FICO credit scores. This is a great resource for millions of consumers, particularly those who could use some professional advice in addition to receiving their scores.
The catch: the only catch to using credit counseling as a means to receive a free credit score is that there is a little more commitment involved. You would need to go through a counseling session (also free of charge) in order to do a thorough review of your situation and receive the score. Again, free advice is never a bad thing, so this resource could prove useful to you.
You Have Many Options
As we have shown, there are many options to choose from if you are in need of a free credit score. Keep in mind that you might want to ensure that you receive a real FICO score, and having some additional education wouldn’t hurt either. Because of that, credit counseling might be the best way to go, and if you’d like your free score, we are here to help. You can get started by calling us at 800.750.2227 or filling out our registration form, with the information we need to get started.