How To Get Your Free Credit Score? Compare Best Sites.
A good credit score can significantly lower your interest rates on car loan, mortgage, insurance, and more. It’s a good practice to check your score once in a while. How exactly do you get your credit score for free? Read on.
With the number of credit score websites out there, it can be difficult to narrow down the options — but don’t worry. We’ve done the research so you can get your scores fast and easy.
Free credit score websites
Best free services offer all 3-bureau credit scores (see FreeScore360.com) but in most cases expect to receive just a one score. Take a look:
|FreeScore360||Experian, Equifax, TransUnion|
Simply register with your favorite website and provide some basic information about you (email address, ZIP code, etc.). You may be asked to provide your Social Security Number (SSN) in order to verify your identity.
Scores you receive from these websites can give you a very good idea of your creditworthiness. However, you need to know these are rarely used by lenders. Most financial institutions in United States prefer and use FICO scores.
To see your FICO scores online visit myFICO.com. This is the official FICO website where you can buy an individual bureau’s score for $19.95 each (or get all three of them for a more complete picture). You can also opt-in for a 3-bureau credit monitoring service priced at $29.95 per month. Make sure to cancel your subscription when you no longer need it.
FICO Score 8 from Experian is also available at FreeCreditScore.com and Discover’s CreditScorecard.com. Both sites are absolutely free, without trial membership, and should not ask you for a credit card number.
Free FICO credit score
Most credit card issuers now give you free access to your FICO scores, updated every 30 days. You should be able to see your score on your monthly credit card statement, online bank account, or mobile app.
There are many different versions of FICO scores. Today, in 2016, the FICO Score 8 is the most popular among lenders. This table gives you an idea of which scores are available where.
|American Express||FICO 8||Experian|
|Bank of America||FICO 8||TransUnion|
|Barclaycard US||FICO 8||TransUnion|
|Citi||FICO Bankcard 8||Equifax|
|Commerce Bank||FICO 8||Any|
|First National Bank||FICO Bankcard 8||Experian|
|Wells Fargo||FICO Bankcard 2||Experian|
Contact your bank if it’s not on the list above. According to Market Watch, more than 100 million U.S. bank accounts also offer regular access to FICO scores with no extra charge.
Have more questions about your credit score and credit report?
Check our answers below (unlock the content to see the answers).
How is my score calculated?
Why should I check my score?
Why my scores are different?
What is a credit score?
A credit score is a three-digit number that represents your creditworthiness. It can help lenders understand how risky it is to give you a loan.
The higher your score, the more trustworthy you are in the lender’s eyes. Higher scores get better loans, giving you more (and better) options for financing.
Your credit score is based on information from your credit report, which includes your current and past credit accounts and what your track record is with each of them.
Data from your credit report is compiled using a mathematical formula called a scoring model to create your final score.
Vantage Credit Score
Vantage scores are a collaboration between the three major credit bureaus – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax – which is basically an attempt to break through the FICO credit scoring monopoly.
The current VantageScore model, VantageScore 3.0, uses the same score range as the FICO score (300-850). It’s calculated differently, though.
VantageScore is gaining more traction, mainly because big consumer credit websites (like Credit Sesame, Credit Karma and others) use this scoring model for their free credit score and credit monitoring products.
Educational Credit Scores
Educational scores are rarely, if ever, used by lenders to evaluate your creditworthiness.
Does that mean they’re completely useless?
You can still learn a lot from your educational score.
According to recent study conducted by Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, there is no big difference between FICO scores and educational scores.
For this study CFPB gathered and analyzed scores from 200,000 credit files from each of the major credit bureaus. Here’s what they found:
Most consumers, 80% (FICO vs Educational) were in the same score categories across the different scoring models. This means that the scores consumers receive will usually give them an accurate understanding of how creditors, using another scoring model, would perceive them.
The ‘big three’ credit bureaus use their educational credit scores to enroll customers into credit monitoring, privacy protection and other credit-related products.
How is my credit score calculated?
Traditionally, your FICO credit scores factor in five major components:
You can see that each component has its own level of importance.
For instance, someone with very little payment history can still have a great credit score, depending on how the rest of their report looks. But large negatives in any one category may also drag the total score down.
The way credit scores are calculated is a bit of a mystery, and it can be confusing if you have any bumps or missing pieces in your credit history.
Just remember that credit scores are only a reflection of your credit report, which gives the full picture of your creditworthiness.
Let’s take a closer look at the large range of financial activity that factors into your credit score:
Payment History. This is the first thing any potential lender wants to know.
Do you pay your other credit accounts on time? This includes credit cards, installment loans, mortgage payments, and the like. When it comes to late payments, your credit score takes into account the total amount owed, how late the payments were, how many occurred, and how long ago they happened.
Serious negative factors such as collection items, foreclosures, liens, wage garnishments, and bankruptcies also get lumped into this part of the credit score calculation.
Amounts Owed. Credit scores look at the amounts you owe and how your debt factors into your overall financial picture.
This means they take into account the total amount of money you owe to all creditors, how far into the loan you are, and how much of your available credit is in use.
For example, you might have a $20,000 credit card limit, but if you’re only carrying $3,000 on that card and you have $0 balances on your other cards, you’ve got a lot of available credit. But if you’re carrying $17,000 of that $20,000 limit and no other credit cards, you’re in a much different position.
Looking at your amounts owed and comparing them to your total available credit (also called your credit utilization ratio) helps lenders avoid those whom they might judge as ‘overextended.’
Obviously, a low credit utilization ratio sends a better message than a high credit utilization ratio.
Length of Credit History. Longer credit history has a positive impact on credit scores.
Though a lengthy credit history isn’t necessarily required for a high score, factors such as the age of your oldest account, the average age of your open accounts, and even how long it has been since you used certain accounts contribute to your final credit score.
In many cases, the best advice is to leave your oldest accounts open. If you only use them once or twice a year, your credit scores will benefit. Closed accounts do show up your credit report and might contribute to a higher score for a while, but their significance fades over time. It’s better to keep them open.
Credit Mix. Credit diversity plays a different role for different creditors and is more important when your credit report has less total information.
The more types of credit accounts you successfully maintain, the better. However, be sure that you only open accounts that you will actually use. The use of credit cards, installment loans, mortgages, and even retail accounts can factor into your final score.
New Credit. Lenders pay close attention to new credit, especially for those without a lengthy credit history.
Research shows that opening multiple accounts over a short period of time presents greater risk. In fact, just having multiple credit inquiries over a short time can impact your score as well.
Spacing inquiries close together (2-3 weeks max) usually gets treated as a single inquiry, as you aren’t punished for shopping around. Just make sure you don’t seem to be perpetually shopping for new credit. Lenders want to see planned, responsible financial decisions.
Why should I check my credit score?
Your credit score is a major factor in the decisions your potential lenders will make about the loans they’ll offer you. For that reason, knowing your credit score and how it works will empower you to make better decisions and access better financial options now and in the years ahead.
One thing you need to know: your credit score doesn’t stay the same. Because your financial situation changes from month to month and year to year (as you acquire and pay off debt), your credit score will also change.
If you have never borrowed money you probably don’t have a credit history yet. Learn here how to build your credit from zero.
Checking your credit score is never a once-and-done thing. You need to check it periodically, especially when you’re considering a major change like buying a new car or buying a new house.
Your score is used as an indicator of “creditworthiness” by the institutions who evaluate you financially to offer you a loan, housing, etc. This means that your credit score has a direct impact on some significant aspects of your life.
Let’s take a look at some of those aspects now:
Loan Approval. Even if this is your first time doing credit score research, you probably know that your credit scores are used by banks and other lending agencies to make decisions about you as an applicant.
Because your credit score is based on your financial history, including how much debt you currently have and what your payment history is, lenders consider your credit score a good indication of whether or not you’ll pay back their loan.
If you’re considered a “safe” risk, you’ll have access to better loans. This may mean greater amounts of money, loans with low interest rates, or both.
Typical loans include mortgages, car loans, and personal loans. Anything you’d have to make a payment on is a loan.
Reputable lenders require a good credit history to loan large sums of money.
For those with poor credit and a low credit score, the only options are less reputable lenders like payday lenders, pawn shops, or “instant approval” loans.
If you have to depend on a lessor creditor (ie. “no credit check required”), you can be sure that you will pay much more over the life of the loan.
On the other hand, great credit results in lending agencies competing for your business and offering you some great loans.
Interest Rates. High credit scores generally equate to lower interest rates. Lenders save their best loans (the ones with low interest rates) for those who are sure to pay them back.
What this means for you is that the better your credit score is, the less you’ll pay in interest over time (and the more money you’ll keep in your pocket).
But if you’ve got bad credit, you may be stuck with a bad loan, and you’ll pay significantly more over time for the same amount of borrowed money.
Let’s give a couple of examples to show just how important your interest rate is.
Insurance. While loans get the most attention in the credit score discussion, they aren’t the only thing in your life affected by your credit scores. Home and auto insurance companies also use your credit scores to help determine how much you’ll pay in premiums and other fees.
If a company decides that you are unlikely to make consistent payments, your fees and premiums will be higher. This seems counterintuitive because it will make the payments harder to make, but that’s the way the company protects itself.
For them, charging more up front or on a monthly basis results in more of your money in their pockets if you do stop making payments prematurely. As unfair as it seems, without this system, insurance companies would have a hard time staying in business.
As a result, the best thing you can do for yourself is to work on increasing your credit score. Companies will trust you to make the payments you owe, making it easier for them to offer you lower payments.
Occupation. Depending on your career path, employers may look into your credit scores as a measure of how responsible you might be. Accountants, loan originators, military personnel, those in government positions, and even parking booth operators may be subject to credit checks.
If you handle money, those above you in the management ladder need to be able to trust that you can make responsible decisions with it.
And More. Beyond these things, there are many other instances where you credit scores are likely to play a major factor.
Cell phone service, furniture rentals, apartment leases, and a variety of other agreements to make regular payments might require you to have a certain level of credit in order to get approved.
Your credit scores affect your lifestyle on the whole, which is exactly why it is so important to first understand your scores and second to do your best to maintain a high score.
Why my credit scores are different?
This questions gets asked a lot.
Let me explain.
In the United States, there are three major companies, called credit bureaus, that deal with credit scores: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
Each of these credit bureaus does the same job – compiling your credit report and formulating your credit rating – but they each do them independently.
They each try to collect every piece of financial information from your former and current creditors, past employers, landlords, and other financial information.
But because they work independently of each other, there’s no guarantee that they’ll each collect all of the same information about you.
So even if all 3 credit bureaus use the exact same formula to calculate their version of your credit score, they might have different pieces of information, giving you 3 different credit scores.
For example: you might have a score of 720 with Experian, a 700 from Equifax, and a 730 from Trans Union.
These scores are all fairly close to each other, but the slight differences would happen because some bureaus would have more financial information about you than others.
In addition to working with potentially different sets of financial information about you, companies that produce your credit score might use a different formula, called a scoring model, to calculate your final score.
FICO and Vantage are the most popular credit scoring models, but there are many other options available, too.
Access Your Credit Report
Your credit report is the most important financial record in your life. It’s your responsibility to understand it properly and know what’s inside of it.
When did you check your credit report for the last time? Do it now, it’s free.
Why is a credit report important?
For Americans, no financial document is as important as your credit report. Information on your credit report determines how much you can borrow and at what rates. It may influence your ability to get a job, rent an apartment, or access low cost insurance.
Need more convincing? Here are three reasons you should check your credit report at least once a year.
- Your credit report may help you resolve identity theft issues.
- Your credit report can help you develop a debt payoff strategy.
- Someone else’s irresponsible credit behavior may hurt your credit. You need to know about that.
Unfortunately, only 10% of eligible people check their credit report.
Do I have to pay for my credit report?
Many people think you have to pay for a credit report. In fact, only 15.9 Million consumers checked their credit for free, but 26 Million paid to check their credit.
You don’t have to pay for your credit report. Each of the three major credit reporting agencies will give you a free copy of your credit report every year at annualcreditreport.com.
Who can access my credit report?
Nobody can access your credit report without your permission. However, you may be surprised how often you agree to give businesses access. Cell phone companies, insurance companies, and lenders will almost always request a copy of your credit report before they provide service to you. Landlords and employers sometimes ask for a copy of your report before they sign contracts with you.
Will checking my credit hurt my credit score?
No. Checking your credit will not hurt your credit score. When you check your own credit report, the credit bureaus consider it a ‘soft pull’ instead of a ‘hard inquiry.’
A hard credit inquiry indicates that you applied for a new loan. This temporarily dampens your credit score. On the other hand, a soft pull has no effect on your credit score.
What happens if I can’t get my credit report online?
Sometimes credit bureaus won’t release your credit report through AnnualCreditReport.com. This happens when you hit a digital security impasse. Young people with thin credit files, or people who recently moved are the most likely to hit the security wall.
Don’t worry, you can request your credit report by mail. Fill out this Annual Credit Report Request form. And mail it to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
P.O. Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
Your request will be processed within 15 days.
Do my spouse and I have the same credit report?
You and your spouse do not have the same credit report. You may share some information, but the reports will differ. What does that mean? A husband and wife may have co-signed a mortgage. Both will see the same record of payments on their individual credit reports.
However, that same couple probably will not have matching credit card entries on their credit report. It’s rare to open up a joint credit account. Because of that, both husband and wife will have different credit card behavior on their credit report.
I know my credit score. Do I have to check my credit report?
Even if you know your credit score, you need to check your credit report at least once per year.
Checking your credit report may reveal inquiries for loans that you didn’t apply for. You might see balances on credit cards you didn’t use. These are evidence of identity fraud. The faster you stop identity fraud, the easier it is to clean up. You might also be surprised to see a medical or utility bill in collections.
Don’t find any of those? Good. Then, checking your credit report offers peace of mind that you’re on the right track.
What’s the difference between a credit score and a credit report?
Your credit report is simply a record of your credit history. It contains positive information like on time payments, and negative information like items in collections. A credit report is a neutral document; it shows a record of your behavior.
Credit scores don’t weigh different types of information differently. Banks use credit scores to decide how much they will lend to you and at what rate.
If you’re interested in improving your credit score, we can show you how.
What are the three credit bureuas?
|Equifax||P.O. Box 105069
|Experian||P.O. Box 9554
|TransUnion||Fraud Victim Assistance Department
P.O. Box 2000
The credit reporting bureaus are private companies that compile and manage consumer credit information. Banks pay credit reporting agencies for information about customers who want a loan. Consumers rely on the credit reporting agencies to compile a fair and accurate credit report.
Each credit reporting agency keeps a unique record of your credit. Your credit report at each company will look a little different.
What if I have a problem with the credit reporting agencies?
The Fair Credit Reporting Act gives all people the right to a fair and accurate credit report. But, you might still struggle to convince the credit reporting agencies that your dispute is valid.
In cases like this, escalate your dispute to your original creditor. If possible, meet with a banker to explain the situation. Request that they reach out to the credit reporting agencies to remove false information removed from your credit report.
If your creditor isn’t local, send a dispute letter to your creditor via certified mail. Your creditor should send you a response that you can forward to the credit reporting agencies.
Once you get a response, the credit bureaus should work with you. If problems persist, you can file a complaint through the Consumer Federal Protection Bureau.
Credit Report Errors
Will my credit report help me improve my credit?
Checking your credit report won’t directly help fix your credit. It will give you an idea of where you need to improve. When you look at your credit report, ask these four questions:
- Are my credit card balances higher than 30% of available credit?
- Do I have a history of late payments? How can I fix that?
- Could I use a pay for delete strategy for collections items?
- Am I applying for too many loans?
How do I fix errors on my credit report?
If you find errors on your credit report, you can dispute your errors through all three credit reporting agencies. As long as you have proof of the error, the credit reporting agencies will often fix the error within a few days.
You only have to win a dispute at one credit reporting agency. They should share the information with the other two credit reporting agencies.
How long will negative information stay on my credit report?
Most negative information stays on your credit report for 7-10 years.
- Closed accounts, paid as agreed – 10 Years
- Closed accounts, not paid as agreed – 7 years from closing
- Late payments – 7 years
- Collections – 7 Years from date of first late payment
- Medical Bills – 7 Years from date of collections
- Judgements – 7 Years
- Tax Liens – 7 Years from when they are paid.
- Repossessions – 7 Years from date of first late payment
- Hard Credit Inquiries – 24 months
- Unpaid Tax Liens – Indefinitely
- Chapter 7 Bankruptcy – 7 years from filing
- Chapter 11 Bankruptcy – 7 years from filing
- Non-discharged or dismissed Chapter 13 Bankruptcy – 10 years from filing
- Discharged Chapter 13 Bankruptcy – 7 years from filing
Why is the collections debt still on my credit report?
If you’re serious about cleaning up your credit, you may have settled a debt with a collections agent. But it’s still on your report. Why?
Paying off a collections debt isn’t the same as removing it. Your creditor must agree to remove the debt, or it will stay on your credit report for 7 years. After seven years, the credit reporting agencies will remove the collections debt from your credit report.
You may succeed in removing the collections debt before seven years passes. However, you shouldn’t work too hard on that. The longer ago the collections happened, the less of an effect it has on your credit score.
Prevent ID theft & fraud
Can someone else hurt my credit report?
Everybody has a personal credit report, but other people can influence your credit report. This can be both positive and negative. Someone else can hurt you when:
- You co-signed a loan, and the other person defaults.
- The primary holder of a credit card makes a late payment or uses too much debt.
Someone else can help your credit when:
- They make timely payments on a co-signed loan.
- The primary holder of a credit card keeps credit utilization low.
If you don’t want someone else to influence your credit report, don’t co-sign loans. Also, remove yourself as an authorized user from all credit cards.
Should I freeze my credit?
Freezing your credit prevents outside parties from looking at your credit. Don’t freeze your credit when you’re shopping for loans. It’s also a bad idea to freeze your credit if you plan to start a new job or hunt for a new apartment. Bankers, employers and landlords need to see your credit, but a credit freeze stops them.
In other circumstances, a credit freeze is a smart move. It prevents identity thieves from opening loans in your name.
It costs between $5- $10 to freeze your credit at each of the three credit reporting agencies. When you freeze your credit you must provide personal information such as your address, date of birth and Social Security number.
After the freeze is in place, you will receive a confirmation letter containing a unique password. Keep the PIN or password in a safe place. You will need the password to “thaw” your credit. There is also a fee to thaw your credit.