How to Check FICO® Score (Beware of “Free” Credit Scores)

How to Check FICO® Score (Beware of “Free” Credit Scores)
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Ashley Dull
By: Ashley Dull
Posted: February 8, 2016
BadCredit.org's popular "How-To" series is for those who seek to improve, rebuild or better understand their subprime credit rating.

Your FICO Score is a credit score that is used by 90 percent of lenders. When you’re applying for a loan or credit of any sort, it is highly probable that the lender will look at your FICO Score as opposed to other types of credit scores.

You’ll see a lot of advertisements for free credit scores, but those are not FICO Scores. They are generally educational credit scores to help consumers understand their credit and are not used by lenders to determine creditworthiness.

3 Ways to Get Your FICO® Credit Score

To find your actual FICO credit score, you have a few options. You can go directly to the source at myFICO.com, or you may be able to obtain a free FICO Score from your bank, credit union, or credit card issuer. You can also sign up for credit monitoring services.

1. Directly From FICO® at myFICO.com

Each bureau — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — has its own record of your credit history (credit report) and FICO Score. Visit myFICO.com, the official FICO website, where you can purchase individual scores from each bureau for $19.95 or all three scores for $59.85.

Yes, $60 is a bit steep for all three FICO Scores, but we’ve found a loophole…

Sign up for FICO’s Ultimate 3B product, which is $29.95 a month. This includes all three credit bureaus’ FICO Scores, credit reports and daily credit monitoring. Cancel within 30 days, and you’ll have received all three bureaus’ reports and scores for half the cost.

2. Sign Up For Credit Monitoring Services

There are many credit monitoring services that offer FICO Scores and credit reports. Check out our Credit Report Comparison Chart to see every credit monitoring service currently available that offers FICO Scores.

For example, Experian.com offers a 7-day trial of Experian Credit Tracker for $1. This includes your Experian FICO Score, credit report, and credit monitoring. Remember to cancel within the 7-day period, otherwise it will cost you $21.95 a month.

3. From Your Credit Card or Financial Institution

Many credit card issuers, banks, and credit unions offer their members free FICO Scores nowadays. The only problem is most only show you one of your three FICO Scores.

Equifax, Experian and TransUnion credit scores.

Each credit bureau has its own credit report and FICO Score.

Each bureau’s score should be similar, so if you find that one is significantly lower, that’s a red flag. It could mean that there is an error present on one of the bureau’s credit reports, which is why it is important to know all three FICO Scores and check your credit reports at least once annually. In the event that you do find an error, here’s how to dispute it.

Credit Cards

These are the credit card issuers that offer free FICO Scores to their members who carry certain cards, as well as which bureau’s FICO Score they provide.

Issuer: Who Qualifies: FICO Score:
American Express all cardholders Experian
Barclaycard all cardholders TransUnion
Chase Chase Slate cardholders Experian
Citibank all cardholders Equifax
Discover all cardholders TransUnion
First National Bank of Omaha all cardholders Experian
Synchrony Walmart Credit Card & Walmart MasterCard holders TransUnion

Financial Institutions

These are the banks and credit unions that currently offer free FICO Scores to their members who hold certain accounts and loans, as well as which bureau’s FICO Score they provide.

Institution: Who Qualifies: FICO Score:
Ally Financial members with Ally Auto Online Services & Ally Auto Mobile Pay TransUnion
Huntington Bank Huntington Voice credit cardholders Equifax
Merrick Bank all credit cardholders TransUnion
PenFed active checking accounts, installment loans and revolving credit lines Equifax
DCU Credit Union all cardholders and checking accounts with direct deposit Equifax
Partners 1st all members TransUnion
State Employees’ Credit Union members with active lending Equifax
Unitus Community Credit Union checking account holders with active lending Equifax

Don’t Be Fooled by “Free” Credit Reports & Scores

Annualcreditreport.com is the only source for free credit reports that is authorized by federal law. You are allowed a credit report from each of the three bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — once every 12 months. Your credit score, however, is not included with your credit report.

Free credit scores can be very helpful for getting a general view of where your credit stands, but those scores are calculated differently than FICO Scores. Therefore, the number you’re seeing from a free credit score may be far from what your FICO Score is. You don’t want to get caught off guard thinking your score is something it’s not when it’s time to apply for a loan.

Photo credits: beatdebt.info