Are you curious about your credit score number? You should be! Your credit score is one of the most important indicators of your financial health.
A good credit score makes it easy to qualify for a mortgage, car loan, credit card and other financial products. Monitoring your score keeps your motivated with credit repair and helps you prevent identity theft. What is the best way to check your free credit score? Let’s find out.
Free Credit Score Sites
Checking your score online is fast, easy and secure. Most services give you instant online access to your credit scores. Below we listed the five most reputable websites in the industry. Check them out and pick a solution that works for you.
One of the best websites for monitoring your free credit score is FreeScore360.com FreeScore360 is the only credit monitoring site that offers credit scores and full credit reports from major credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax and Transunion.
On top of the credit scores, FreeScore360 offers an amazing score simulation tool and identity monitoring services. None of the services listed below offer so much value for free. Because of this, FreeScore360 is our top recommendation.
Credit Karma offers 100% free credit score monitoring from Equifax and Transunion. They also calculate help you track your Vantage 3.0 score over time. The Vantage score isn’t used for lending decisions, but it’s a useful for ongoing monitoring purposes.
Credit Karma also has a built in spending tracker, and a score simulator. Both were helpful for building financial awareness.
Credit Karma has two drawbacks. You can’t get your Experian report, and they pepper the site with tempting card offers. Before relying on Credit Karma consider how you will respond to their targeted advertising. You don’t want to go into debt when you’re trying to repair your credit.
Credit Sesame offers a free Vantage score, and a TransUnion credit report. They also offer $50,000 worth of identity theft insurance for free. If you’re looking for basic score monitoring and a bit of identity theft insurance, Credit Sesame is a great platform.
You can also upgrade to $1 million dollars worth of identity theft insurance, and three bureau credit monitoring. However, we recommend skipping the upgrade and going with FreeScore360 or 3CreditScores.net instead.
Discover Credit Scorecard
Discover is the first bank to offer a completely free FICO score service to everyone. That’s right, you don’t have to be a Discover customer to use the Discover Credit Scorecard service.
The service offers a FICO 8 score (used by banks for underwriting for credit cards) using data from Experian. While you’ll still want to check your credit report from Equifax and TransUnion, the Discover Credit Scorecard is a great option for a free FICO score.
Experian offers a free FICO 8 score, and a free Experian credit report from their site FreeCreditScore.com. This site was embroiled in a credit card controversy, but today it’s 100% free. You won’t have to enter credit card information to gain access to the site.
Even though FreeCreditScore.com only offers credit monitoring from Experian, it’s a worthwhile supplement to monitoring from Credit Karma. Although the site is free of charge, it includes some offers for cards and loans.
Credit Card Companies
The biggest credit card companies now provide their customers with credit monitoring tools, including free credit scores. You can find the score on your bank’s website or on your monthly bill.
American Express offers a free FICO 8 score using data from Experian. Any Amex consumer customer qualifies for the offer. If you’re interested in 3-Bureau monitoring, you can join CreditSecure from American Express for $14.99 per month, but we don’t recommend upgrading.
Bank of America
Bank of America offers a free FICO 8 score using data from TransUnion. All BofA customers can enroll in the program. BofA also offers a Better Money Habits credit education program to help their customers become more money savvy. The program is completely free to BofA customers, and it’s worth a look.
On top of that, Chase Slate Visa cardholders have special access to a credit dashboard. The dashboard includes FICO score from Experian.
Wells Fargo recently rolled out free access to FICO Bankcard 2 scores to all card and loan customers. The FICO Bankcard 2 score is a “FAKO” credit score since it’s not generally used for lending decisions. However, it’s useful for tracking your credit score over time. Wells Fargo uses data from Experian.
Credit scores from a non-profit
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) is a non-profit financial counseling organization. You can meet with a local representative for a low-cost debt and credit counseling session. If the counselor charges for their time, they will let you know in advance.
When banks deny your loan application
If your most recent credit application was denied, you might be in a credit score panic. But don’t freak out right away. Some banks have super-stringent lending criteria. Even someone with a FICO credit score of 700 might get turned down. A bank might also turn you down if you don’t meet other lending criteria, such as an income requirement. Ask the bank to tell you more about the reason they turned you down.
If you still need a loan, be sure to start shopping right away. If you’re shopping for a home, auto loan or dental loan any inquiries within 30 days count against you just one time. Before hiring a credit repair company, follow this guide to fixing your credit for free.
Buying a credit score
In general, we don’t recommend buying a credit score, you may need to know your FICO credit scores when you’re shopping for a car or home. FICO credit scores are the scores used by most banks when they are making lending decisions. In particular, most banks use the FICO Auto Scores 2, 4, 5, 8 and 9 to make lending decisions. Banks use FICO 2, 4, and 5 to make mortgage lending decisions.
If you’re in the market for a home or auto loan consider buying a 3 bureau credit report, and access to 25 additional FICO scores from MyFICO.com.
MyFICO.com has a well organized website that will help you find the right score for your borrowing needs. FICO charges $58.95 for access to your full credit report. While you don’t want to pay this amount on a regular basis, it’s well worth the cost if you’re close to taking out a big loan.
How is my credit score calculated?
There are five distinct components that go into calculating your FICO score:
They each have a their own degree of importance.
For example, someone who has hardly any payment history can end up with a great credit rating when everything else in his or her credit report is taken into consideration. However, if there are a lot of negative items in one particular category, these can lower the total rating.
Let’s look more closely into the types of financial activities that determine your rating:
The main thing potential lenders are going to look at is whether or not you pay your bills on time.
If you have a mortgage, installment loans, credit or debit cards, do you make these payments on time? Regarding late payments, the scoring algorithm looks at how much the total bill is, how late you made your payments, how many late payments you have, and how recent or long ago these late payments occurred.
Major negative items like foreclosures, bankruptcies, liens, garnished wages and items in collection get lumped together into this part.
Your credit score reflects the amount of money you owe and how the debt you’re carrying impacts your financial outlook.
What is taken into account is the amount of money, in total, that you owe to all your lenders, how far you are into each loan, and the amount of available credit you still have.
Comparing the amount of money you owe to the amount of available credit you still have helps lenders determine who might be “overextended.” These are the borrowers they want to avoid.
A loan applicant with a high utilization ratio is certainly not goingto be as desirable as someone with a low utilization ration.
Length of Credit History
While a long financial history may not necessarily be needed for a high credit score, factors like how long you’ve held your oldest account, the average length of time you’ve had your accounts open, and how long since you used some accounts all play a role in your final rating.
In most instances, it is advisable to keep the accounts you’ve held the longest open. Your rating will improve if you rely on them very little, no more than twice a year. Closed accounts will appear on your report and could lead to a higher score, but this will subside in time. It’s better to just let them remain open.
The diversification of the accounts you have influences some lenders more than others. But when you don’t have much of a financial or credit history, it may be more important.
The more different types of accounts you can keep current, the better. But, it is important that you open accounts that only make sense, that you need and will use. Your final credit score will consider your mortgages, installment loans, credit/debit cards, and any accounts you have at retail stores.
Lenders look closely at new credit, especially when someone does not have much of a credit history.
Studies show that when someone opens numerous accounts in a short time period, they pose a greater risk to lenders. Just having a number of inquiries into your credit history over a short span of time can also affect your credit rating.
If you space your inquiries within a 2-3 week time span they will likely be considered a single inquiry, which means you wouldn’t be negatively impacted for looking around. On the other hand, you do not want to appear to be constantly shopping for new lines of credit. Today’s lenders are looking for borrowers who make thoughtful decisions and manage their credit in a responsible manner.