Your credit score is a three-digit number that wields incredible power. It can make or break a credit card application. It determines what interest rates you pay on loans. If you want to rent an apartment, the landlord will likely run a credit check. Your credit score can even affect the cost of your auto insurance policy.
Clearly, you need to know your score ― and whether it’s in good shape.
There are many companies that provide access to your credit score, according to Frederic Huynh, a former lead data scientist at FICO and current vice president of credit risk analytics with Freedom Financial Network. However, they often require you to sign up for their services and pay a monthly or annual fee.
But these days, there’s no need to pay. Huynh said there are a number of banks, credit unions and credit card issuers that offer credit score access at no cost. Here’s how to see yours for free.
How To Check Your FICO Credit Score For Free
According to FICO, a data analytics company that provides credit score services, more than 90 percent of lenders use the FICO score when making lending decisions. So if you’re interested in checking your credit score, you should start by looking up your FICO score.
The only catch: You actually have more than one FICO score ― dozens, in fact. Since the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) collect and report your credit information independently, FICO creates a separate score for you using each bureau’s data. That means you have a different FICO score for each bureau, all of which can vary depending on what information each bureau has.
There are also several versions of the FICO score, including the latest update known as FICO 9 and the upcoming UltraFICO. However, the version most commonly used by lenders today is the FICO 8, which is what most free FICO providers will show you. Even so, some provide alternate versions of the FICO score.
Below is a list of major financial institutions and websites that allow you to see your FICO score for free. Most provide scores reported by a single credit bureau, so consider checking your score with more than one source in order to get a well-rounded picture of your credit health.
The My Credit Guide by American Express allows cardholders to view their TransUnion FICO score and credit report for free by logging into the Amex online banking platform. Users also get access to credit monitoring alerts and a credit score simulator that shows how different actions could impact their scores.
Bank of America provides its credit card holders free online access to their FICO scores, which are based on TransUnion data and updated monthly. Cardholders can also track their credit score history and learn more about credit improvement strategies via BofA’s Better Money Habits publication.
Barclaycard customers can access their free FICO scores by logging into their online banking portals. Scores are based on TransUnion data.
Chase Slate cardholders have access to their FICO scores as an added card benefit. Scores are updated monthly and based on TransUnion data.
Citi currently offers FICO score access to select cardholders. It offers the FICO 8 Bankcard Score, which is a bit different than the traditional FICO. This version of the FICO score weighs credit card usage more heavily than other types of credit and uses a broader scoring range of 250-900 (versus 300-850 for the FICO). Scores are based on Equifax data.
The Credit Scorecard by Discover is a tool available to everyone who signs up, not just Discover cardholders. Credit score data is provided by Experian.
7. FreeCreditScore.com By Experian
Previously a paid service, this website owned by Experian now provides access to your FICO score and Experian credit report for free. Users who sign up on the website can also dispute credit report errors directly from the site.
Wells Fargo provides eligible customers access to its Experian FICO scores online. In addition to your score, Wells Fargo also provides your credit score history and personalized tips to improve it.
How To Check Your VantageScore For Free
Though FICO is the most widely used credit score, other scoring models exist. For instance, there’s Experian’s proprietary PLUS score, as well as FICO’s competitor, the VantageScore. Often, these non-FICO scores are referred to as “educational scores” since they’re meant to give you an idea of your overall creditworthiness but aren’t necessarily used by lenders.
Even so, according to VantageScore, 2,200 financial institutions used more than 6 billion of its scores between July 2016 and June 2017. So in addition to your FICO score, it’s worth checking out your VantageScore, too.
Fortunately, there several services that let you see your VantageScore for free. Often, scores are updated weekly, and many of these tools also provide free credit monitoring services and alerts.
The CreditWise tool from Capital One is open to anyone who signs up. Scores are based on TransUnion data.
Non-Slate Chase customers can see their TransUnion VantageScore and credit report for free via the Credit Journey platform.
Credit education site Credit.com offers users the ability to sign up and access their VantageScore from Experian for free.
One of the first free credit score sites, Credit Karma provides users with their VantageScores and credit reports from both Equifax and TransUnion.
Similar to Credit Karma, Credit Sesame offers many of the same free credit monitoring services, including access to your VantageScore from TransUnion.
Online loan aggregator LendingTree offers TransUnion VantageScores to users who sign up for its free credit score tool.
This popular budgeting tool has a built-in credit score feature that lets you see your TransUnion VantageScore for free.
Personal finance site NerdWallet offers a free credit score feature. Users can sign up to get their TransUnion VantageScore score for free.
Another online tool similar to Credit Karma and Credit Sesame, Quizzle provides free VantageScores from TransUnion.
The CreditCheck service from USAA provides members with their monthly Experian VantageScore and a yearly Experian credit report at no cost.
Finally, you can sign up with personal finance site WalletHub for access to your TransUnion VantageScore for free.
But Wait … Is It Bad To Check Your Own Credit Score?
A common credit myth is that checking your own score can ding your credit. The truth is you can check your credit reports and scores as often as you like with no impact to your credit score.
“Checking your own credit has no effect on credit reports or scores, as it is considered a soft inquiry,” Huynh said. He explained that soft inquiries happen when you check your own credit, a company checks your credit report as part of a background check or a lender pre-approves you for a credit card or loan.
The bottom line: there’s no excuse to avoid checking your credit score. Just keep in mind that scores can change day to day. “So don’t obsess over small changes,” Huynh said. “Rather, note the trend over a period of months.”