You’ve probably never heard of the Fair Isaac Corporation, but it’s heard of you. And it rules much of your life, from your mortgage’s interest rate to your ability to qualify for great credit cards.
That’s because Fair Isaac invented the FICO score, a number used by lenders to evaluate your creditworthiness. Since the early ’90s, this credit score has affected the financial lives of countless people across the United States. And you don’t have just one score, either; you have dozens, including multiple FICO scores.
Since they probably won’t go away any time soon, you should understand your FICO scores in and out. And it would be helpful to have a basic understanding of other scoring models, particularly VantageScore, although these won’t be as relevant for most people.
Free Credit Score Check Services
You have a variety of options when it comes to providers of free credit scores.
If you want to get free FICO scores, your best bet is to get them through credit card issuers. Several of the major card issuers — Amex, Bank of America, Citi, etc., — offer free FICO scores to cardholders.
Getting free VantageScore credit scores is easier, because you don’t need to have any particular credit cards. Instead, there are quite a few companies (including some card issuers) that offer free VantageScores to anyone, just for signing up.
Take note that these services update your scores at different times. The best services update more frequently, like once per week or once per month. Some only update once every three months.
Where to Find Free FICO Credit Scores
Here’s the info you’ve been looking for: where to find your free FICO scores.
The first place you should look is your credit card company. If you’re looking for one of your specific scores, you might already have access to it through an existing credit card account or other online service — you may not have to pay for it.
You can access your FICO scores through the following card issuers after logging in to your online account. Free FICO scores are typically only available to users of regular consumer credit cards, and not available for business card users.
|Credit Card Issuers That Provide Free FICO Credit Scores|
|Issuer||Access||Credit Score||Credit Bureau||Who Can Get It|
|American Express||Login here||FICO Score 8||Experian||Consumer cardholders|
|Bank of America||Login here||FICO Score 8||TransUnion||Consumer cardholders|
|Barclays||Login here||FICO Score 8||TransUnion||Consumer cardholders|
|Chase||Login here||FICO Score 8||Experian||Chase Slate cardholders|
|Citi||Login here||FICO Bankcard Score 8||Equifax||Consumer cardholders (select cards)|
|Discover||Credit Scorecard||FICO Score 8||TransUnion for cardholders; Experian otherwise*||Anyone|
|HSBC||Login here||FICO Score (unknown version)||Equifax||Consumer cardholders, Select Credit customers|
|Synchrony||Login here||FICO Score 8||TransUnion||Consumer cardholders|
|Wells Fargo||Login here||FICO Score 9||Experian||Eligible consumer account holders|
||Login here||FICO Score 8||Experian||Members|
*Discover is a bit of a special case because its free credit score service is available to anyone, cardholder or not, as we explain below.
Depending on the credit cards you have, you may be able to see a free FICO score for each one of your three credit reports: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. You could get an Equifax free credit score from Citi or HSBC; a free Experian credit score from Amex, Discover, or Wells Fargo; and a TransUnion free credit score from Bank of America, Barclays, Discover, or Synchrony. (Synchrony is a popular issuer of store credit cards, and you may have one of its cards without even knowing it.)
There are also many credit cards issued by credit unions, and some of them provide free credit scores. And your bank may offer some type of free credit score for account holders as well.
Where to Find Free VantageScore Credit Scores
VantageScore is the second most popular credit scoring model.
The three major credit bureaus pooled their resources to create this new score in 2006. And though more and more lenders are using this newer type of score, it’s still not as popular as FICO.
However, since free VantageScores are easier to get than free FICO scores, you may want to use your VantageScores as a proxy for keeping track of your FICO scores (if you can’t get access to free FICO scores, that is).
In most cases, you can assume that a good VantageScore equates to a good FICO score. If your VantageScores are going up, your FICO scores probably are too; and if your VantageScores are going down, it’s likely that your FICO scores are as well.
The following services are freely available to anyone just for signing up, with the exception of U.S. Bank’s service which is only available for cardholders.
|Credit Card Issuers and Companies That Provide Free VantageScore Credit Scores|
|Issuer/Company||Service||Credit Score||Credit Bureau||Who Can Get It|
|American Express||MyCredit Guide||VantageScore 3.0||TransUnion||Anyone|
|Capital One||CreditWise||VantageScore 3.0||TransUnion||Anyone|
|Chase||Credit Journey||VantageScore 3.0||TransUnion||Anyone|
|Credit Karma||Credit Karma||VantageScore 3.0||TransUnion and Equifax||Anyone|
|U.S. Bank||Login here||VantageScore 3.0||TransUnion||Consumer cardholders|
Accessing Your Free Credit Scores
You can use a combination of the services above to see your credit scores for each one of your credit reports. We’ll discuss a few popular services here in more detail.
Discover’s Credit Scorecard is an excellent way to check up on your credit, providing a FICO Score 8.
It’s unique compared to the other services on this page because it’s available to Discover cardholders and non-cardholders alike. And oddly enough, it will use TransUnion credit reports for cardholders and Experian reports for non-cardholders.
So, the source of your Discover credit score will depend on how you signed up for the service: either through your cardholder login or otherwise.
Yes, you can access each aspect of this service simultaneously to get free FICO scores from both TransUnion and Experian.
If you’re a cardholder, you can log in to your online account as you normally would to see your TransUnion credit score. Then, you can create a new Discover account, which is not associated with your credit card, to see your Experian credit score.
Or, if you’re not a cardholder, you can simply create a Discover account to access the service and see your FICO score from Experian. This is free, and it doesn’t require applying for any credit cards, bank accounts, or other financial products.
You can get a Chase free credit score by two methods:
- Cardholders of the Chase Slate (Review) can access their FICO Score 8 scores, based on their Experian credit reports.
- Anyone can sign up for the Credit Journey service to access their VantageScore 3.0 scores, based on their TransUnion credit reports.
So, anyone can use Credit Journey to see a VantageScore, but only Slate cardholders can get a Chase FICO score.
The Wells Fargo FICO score program stands out, because unlike the other services on this page it provides the latest score version: FICO Score 9.
FICO Score 9 has some differences compared to FICO Score 8, which is still the most popular version with lenders. The three main differences with FICO Score 9 are:
- Medical bills sent to collections are weighed less heavily
- Collection accounts that have been paid in full are now disregarded
- Rental payment history is now factored into scores (if the landlord reports payments to the credit reporting agencies)
Wells Fargo states the following about eligibility to access this score: “You must be the primary account holder of an eligible Wells Fargo consumer account with a FICO Score available, and enrolled in Wells Fargo Online banking. Eligible Wells Fargo consumer accounts include deposit, loan, and credit accounts. Other consumer accounts may also be eligible. Contact Wells Fargo for details.”
Besides the card issuers above, Credit Karma is our favorite source for free VantageScores. Why? Because your Credit Karma.com free credit scores come from both TransUnion and Equifax, giving you a single handy dashboard to access both of these scores.
Take a look at your TransUnion free credit score compared to your Equifax credit score: Do they match, or are they close? If not, it indicates that there are some differences in the contents of those two credit reports.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it’s normal to have some differences — some lenders only report to one or two of the credit bureaus, and not all three. So you shouldn’t expect to see the same data on all of your reports.
However, it’s possible that differences in your credit reports could indicate fraud or errors of some kind, which is why it’s important to monitor your credit reports periodically. If you find any erroneous or fraudulent information, you should correct it as soon as possible.
What’s a Credit Score?
A credit score is a number (usually between 300 and 850) that helps lenders evaluate how likely you are to pay back a loan. Though the exact formula is a secret, it’s based on your credit history and current credit information (like how many cards you have open and whether or not they’re maxed out).
The national average FICO score is 700, which falls just into the range of “good” credit scores.
When you have good or excellent credit, it means you’re a low credit risk — and lenders are eager to lend you money at low rates. When you have poor or fair credit, it means you’re a high risk — and may have difficulty getting credit, or may only be able to obtain it at high interest rates.
Though you’ll often hear talk about your “credit score” in the singular, you don’t have just one.
In the United States, there are three major credit bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. Each has its own credit file on you, and they could have different information in them. There are many different algorithms that could be used to calculate your credit scores. As a result, your scores might vary depending on which credit reporting agency and type of score your lender uses.
For example, American Express cardholders get a free FICO Score 8, which is a score that ranges from 300 to 850, based on Experian credit report data. On the other hand, Citi cardholders get access to a FICO Bankcard Score 8, which ranges from 250 to 900, based on Equifax credit report data. Even though they’re both FICO scores, they have different score ranges, and the two scores are based on data from two different sources.
Why Credit Scores Matter
As mentioned above, your credit history affects many parts of your life, like the rates on your mortgage and auto loan and whether you’re approved for an apartment or job.
Since credit and credit scores touch all lending and credit decisions, you can’t stick your head in the sand and pretend they don’t matter. (Your mom’s meatloaf is fantastic and all, but you really don’t want to live in her basement forever, do you?)
Checking your credit scores will help you figure out where you can improve, and will also help you notice mistakes or signs of identity theft.
There are several ways to get free credit reports to check up on your credit. Though the reports won’t include credit scores, they will list information about every account you have with creditors so you can monitor them for accuracy. That way, if anything’s incorrect, you can dispute it with the credit bureau.
What’s a FICO Score?
The most well-known type of credit score is the aforementioned FICO score, which is used by most financial institutions to make major lending decisions.
And, despite what you might think, you don’t have just one FICO score either. Since each of the three credit reporting agencies has its own information about you, a separate FICO score is calculated for each one.
Not to mention there are different types of FICO scores. Some are used for credit cards, while others are used for car loans or mortgages. And like any good piece of technology, the formulas are updated frequently — with versions including FICO Score 8, FICO Score 9 and so on — which is yet another reason scores vary so much.
Alternative Credit Scoring Systems
FICO provides the most popular scoring models being used today, and we’ve already talked about VantageScores above. But there are a number of other credit scoring systems as well, with some being specific to certain credit reporting agencies. These alternative credit scores are either less popular with lenders in general or used for niche purposes.
- Equifax Credit Score: Equifax created its own proprietary scoring model, which you can access for $15.95 for a 30-day period.
- Experian PLUS Score: The PLUS Score is Experian’s proprietary scoring model. It ranges from 330 to 830, and may be available with certain Experian credit products.
- TransUnion CreditVision Link: CreditVision Link is TransUnion’s proprietary credit scoring system, and it combines traditional score factors with alternative data, like deposit account history, short term lending, and address stability, to provide scores for more people.
- PRBC Alternative Credit Score: The PRBC Credit Score, with a range of 100 to 850, takes into account rent payments, internet and phone bills, utility payments, insurance, and rent-to-own properties, in addition to traditional credit factors.
- LexisNexis RiskView Score: The RiskView Score draws on traditional and alternative data sources to provide scores for consumers who typically couldn’t be scored, including information like residential stability, asset ownership, derogatory status, and life-stage analysis.
- LexisNexis Payment Score: The Payment Score ranges from 501 to 900 and is designed for collection agencies. It helps predict how likely a person is to pay off their collection accounts so agencies can better focus their efforts.
- LexisNexis Order Score: The Order Score helps businesses verify online shoppers, detecting high-risk transactions and preventing fraud with tools like identity and address verification.
- LexisNexis PowerView Score: The PowerView Score is used by auto lenders, and incorporates alternative data along with traditional credit scoring factors.
How to Improve Your Credit Scores
Unhappy with your credit scores? Here are a few ways you can improve them:
- Make all your payments on time: Payment history is super important to your credit scores. If you have trouble remembering your due dates, set up automatic withdrawals or create calendar reminders. Learn when and how much you should pay here.
- Pay off debt: One of the key factors in your credit scores is how much of your available credit you’re using. This is called your credit utilization ratio, and the lower it is, the better.
- Keep old cards open: Though it might seem counterintuitive, you usually don’t want to close out a credit card once you pay it off. In addition to increasing your credit utilization ratio, it’ll also lower the average age of your accounts. A longer credit history — and higher average age — will help your scores go up.
- Check your scores regularly: If you’ve learned one thing from this post, we hope it’s to check your credit scores and reports at least once per year, or more often if you’re applying for new credit. Try a credit monitoring service. Not only will you catch errors, you’ll also be able to spot signs of identity theft.
Learn more about your credit scores here. Trust us when we say the positive effects will ripple throughout your entire life.
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