Your credit score is a snapshot of your financial life. It’s useful to lenders, but it’s also useful to you. Keeping track of your credit score can give you an idea of how well you’re doing financially and what you can expect if you apply for credit. A sudden move in your score could even tip you off to identity theft. Get your free credit score and you’ll know where you stand!
Keeping track of your credit score is smart. Paying for your credit score isn’t. If you’re looking for free credit scores, remember to look for these features.
- Really free. Free means free, not “we’ll get your credit card details and start charging you in a month unless you cancel”.
- No strings attached. Some people sign up for a free credit score and find themselves buried in spam email offers. You don’t need that.
- No personal information needed. You don’t want to turn over your email address or phone number, and you definitely don’t want to hand out your Social Security Number.
- No hard credit check. A hard pull on your credit can hit your credit score.
Remember that you have many credit scores. Many free credit score providers use VantageScore, but most lenders use FICO. Both FICO and VantageScore offer several different scores.
VantageScore will help you track your finances, but if you want to know if you qualify for a loan or credit card you may prefer a FICO score.
Where to Get a FREE Credit Score
There are several ways to get a truly free credit score.
Your Credit Card Company
Most places want to collect your personal information to give you a free credit score. But why do that if you already have a credit card that will give you the score for free? Many credit card issuers will give you a free credit score as a card perk.
If you have a credit card, there’s a good chance you can get a free credit score. Log in to your card’s member site and check the sidebar and main menu dropdowns.
You’ll find that in many cases when you log in, your card does offer a free score.
Here’s a sample login page, with the free credit score option highlighted.
If you don’t already have a credit card, here are few cards that offer free scores as a membership benefit.
Everyone knows who American Express is, but you probably didn’t know they offer two ways to get a free credit score.
If you are on the above landing page, then you are signing up for their new free credit score platform.
This isn’t only for cardholders. It is open for everyone, but you will have to provide an email address and personal information.
This product does not offer you a FICO score. It is a Vantage Score from Transunion. If you have an American Express credit card, you can get a FICO score for free.
In order to obtain your FICO score with Citi you must be a cardholder.
There is also a possibility that the credit card you apply for won’t have the free FICO score benefit. If you are shopping for a Citi card, check the terms and find out.
Here’s what Citi says about their free credit score service.
As you can see, you will be getting your FICO Bankcard Score 8 from Equifax. FICO 8 is the most commonly used FICO score, so it’s a good score to have.
If you don’t have any credit cards, then a free credit score from Discover is probably going to be one of your best options.
Unlike the other companies, they will give you a Free FICO Score even if you don’t have a Discover card.
You will still need to give up some personal information, but you will get the FICO score.
You also will have access to credit alerts. This is a new feature they are offering with their free credit score. This is a neat benefit, and Discover gives it to you for free.
Other credit card companies have similar offers. Most are focused on current cardholders. Check your credit card’s online portal for details.
With ID Theft Protection
If you have identity theft protection you may be able to view your credit score through your identity theft protection provider. Identity theft protection is usually a paid service, but if you have it you should use all the available features.
Eliminate ID Theft
Here’s an identity theft protection service that provides credit scores along with its other services.
As you can see from the above image, there’s an assortment of features, including:
- Identity & Credit Restoration Support
- Training Videos To Help You Fight Identity Theft
- $25,000 In Reimbursement Insurance
- Credit Monitoring
It also includes a credit report and credit score from each of the three major credit reporting agencies. You get access to all of the scores, the reports, and the monitoring.
Whenever there is an update on your credit report you get an email alert letting you know about the changes. You can also add your spouse to the plan for a small additional fee
Eliminate ID Theft is the not the only company offering this option. If you have been considering identity theft protection then you should be looking to see what additional benefits the company offers such as free credit reports, free credit monitoring or free credit scores.
Through Your Bank
Many banks will provide you with a free credit score. You get to avoid giving out any personal information and still get your credit score for free each month.
Here are a few banks that offer this benefit.
USAA provides banking, insurance, and other financial services to members of the military, their families, and other qualified members.
They offer free credit scores to members that have a checking or savings account.
The only downside to USAA is that not everyone qualifies to bank with them. If you do, you’ll get free credit score benefits:
With this plan you get to see your updated credit score every month as well as an Experian credit report every year.
You get monitoring of your Experian credit report and alerts to specific changes, a score simulator tool and access to a graph that tracks your score each month. If you experience Identity theft, you will get step-by-step support from a U.S. based fraud resolution agent to investigate the theft and help restore your identity.
Wells Fargo has been run through the mud in the news these last few years for tons of scandals. I don’t know if offering a free FICO score is their way of trying to make up for the past, but it is an awesome benefit if you bank with them.
Just like with USAA, you don’t have to have a credit card to get access to this score. You just need to be a customer of the bank and join their Wells Fargo Online system.
Wells Fargo offers the newer FICO 9 score. Many lenders still use FICO 8, so there could be some discrepancies.
Once you are logged in there are two ways to access your free credit score:
If you have accounts with Wells Fargo & USAA you already have the ability to check your credit score and report for free 3 times per month.
First National Bank Of Omaha
The First National Bank Of Omaha is the largest privately held bank in the United States, with over $17 Billion in assets. Many people still haven’t heard of them.
If you become a First National Bank Of Omaha customer, you get access to your FICO Score 8. As we discussed above, this is the score that is currently being used by most lenders and will probably match the same score a lender uses.
To get your score, you can either log into your online account or access from the mobile app.
Each of these banks gives you access to your FICO Score. You don’t have to pay for it.
Third Party Sites
Unless you have been under a rock or off the grid, you know you can get a score from third party sites. Their ads are everywhere and they are widely discussed online.
But here’s the thing:
While getting your score may be free, you still have to sign up for an account and give your personal information.
Third party vendors offer free credit scores, but there are things you should consider.
First, their scores are almost always from VantageScore, not FICO.
Second, most of them require your personal information including:
- Your Name
- Your Email
- Social security number (or last 4 of your social) or DOB, or both!
- Many require an address
If you don’t want a company having this information, or if you prefer getting your FICO score, get your score from a credit card company or bank you’re already doing business with.
If giving up your personal info is not a problem for you, and you’re ok with using the VantageScore, there are some great benefits to using these third party credit score companies. Here are the 3 most popular.
Third party vendors have come out of the box swinging, offering free credit scores and reports and many other features.
One of the first I can remember was Credit Karma. When they first appeared I thought it was amazing that they would give you a free credit score.
Now that I know how it all works, there are some things to consider.
Once you get your report and score, Credit Karma will recommend credit cards and loans based on your current credit profile. If you use one of those recommendations they get paid by any bank or lender you sign up with based on Credit Karma’s recommendation.
Most third party vendors use this model. Their goal is to put you into their system by giving you free access to a credit report and score with the hopes of you using one of their recommended services.
NerdWallet is the most recent entrant into the free credit score space. Unlike Credit Karma and Credit Sesame, they didn’t start out with this feature. They primarily did reviews and “best of” posts and have grown into this model.
You look at your credit score online, and you also have access to the NerdWallet mobile app. The app allows you to see all of the factors that are making up your current credit score by color coding each section. If you have a ton of red on your report, your score will probably be low. Green is a good sign.
That feature gives you not just a look at your credit score, but at what’s helping and hurting it. That can help you build a plan to improve your score.
The only true downside is that NerdWallet gives you the VantageScore 3.0 through Transunion and not a FICO score.
A third option is Credit Sesame.
Like the other companies, there is no credit check required and of course, you can’t hurt your score when you personally check your credit. Credit Sesame also boasts more features.
Like the other two companies, they will recommend loans, credit cards and bank accounts based on your current credit profile.
Just like the others, Credit Sesame will give you a VantageScore from TransUnion.
After Getting Declined For Credit
If you are declined for credit you will usually get a letter telling you why you were declined. While this method is probably the least talked about, it can give the most realistic picture of where you stand with your credit.
The letter usually tells you a few things.
Which Credit Bureau was Used
It is essential to know which credit reporting agency has pulled your credit. Sometimes one of your reports is stronger than the others.You will usually see this happen when a creditor doesn’t report your account to all of the credit reporting agencies.
If your Transunion report has a better profile than your Equifax report then it is best to apply for companies that only use TransUnion until your score is better.
As you can see above this report was pulled from Experian, and you are given their address, phone number and web address to contact them.
And while the letter says the decision was “based in whole or in part”, your credit report is the main or often the only factor in making the decision.
What Is Your FICO Score
Depending on where you applied for credit, you might receive your decline letter either online or in the mail.
You will usually find your FICO score information in the Credit Score Disclosure section like in the image shown below:
You will be able to see the actual FICO score that was used when they pulled your credit.
It might be odd seeing that someone was declined for credit with a 727 credit score, but it is important to keep in mind that your score is only a part of the equation.
What Factors Caused You To Get Declined
If you have been declined for credit, it isn’t only your credit score that you have to consider but your actual credit report.
Your credit score alone isn’t enough to get you approved for a loan or credit, it is also going to depend on what is on your physical report.
Do you have collections or charge offs? Do you have any late payments?
As you see, the person looking to borrow credit has a few issues. First, their credit utilization is too high. They also don’t have enough credit history so they could have a thin credit file and they also have a short average age of accounts.
Applying for a credit card knowing that you will be declined might sound wacky, but the truth is that the information you gain from getting a decline is often better than getting an approval. Just remember that the application will generate a hard inquiry, which can put a minor dent in your credit.
If you apply for one credit card that will almost certainly approve you and another that won’t, you can get a decline letter without damage to your credit. As long as the applications are within a 15-day period the credit bureaus will read them as shopping for the best deal, and will record only a single hard inquiry.
Checking Your Credit Daily
Some companies allow you to get a daily credit report and score.
What does getting a free credit score have to do with checking your credit every day?The biggest drawback to most free credit score providers is that you can only check them once a week or once a month.
If you want a free credit score, it is probably because you are doing something with it.
When you are actively trying to establish or rebuild your credit you want to know what’s happening at all times and having a product that allows you to check your report and score daily is essential.
A Daily Score: My Privacy Matters
My Privacy Matters is one of the few companies that gives you a fresh credit report and score each day.
Some people might think that obtaining your credit report and score on a daily basis is overkill. Sometimes, though, it might be just what you need.
Sometimes you are waiting for a payment to be reported so that you can see how it affected your score.
You might be waiting to apply for a new mortgage or car loan and need to make sure a collection you paid to have deleted has actually been removed from your credit.
Once you have logged into your account you can access several categories:
- Your Credit Reports
- Credit Monitoring
- Recovery Assistance Help
- Identity Theft
Clicking on the reports button takes you to the below section of the site to start viewing your report and score:
Once you are on this screen you get to decide if you will be logging in or if you are a returning spouse and want to log in.
There is a small catch with this process: you have to wait exactly 24 hours before you pull your new report. If you pulled it yesterday at 1:30pm, you have to pull it today no earlier than 1:31pm or you will get an error and have to wait an entire day before you can do another update.
Checking your credit daily is a smart move and can teach you the reporting patterns of your creditors and how the credit reporting agencies report your information.
It’s Up to You
Now it’s your turn to take action.
Now you know what to do to get a free credit score. That’s just the start! Keep boosting your knowledge by learning how your credit score is calculated, what credit score ranges are, and what credit score you need to achieve your financial goals!