6 Ways to Get Your Official FICO Score Free

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By Marilyn Lewis

A high credit score is your ticket to discounts in borrowing and insurance. It can also be a key to landing a job or a rental home.


FICO (for Fair Isaac Corporation, the company that invented credit scoring) scores are used in an estimated 90 percent of credit decisions in the United States.

FICO is the score that lenders, bankers, landlords, merchants and other businesses check to gauge your creditworthiness.

Not long ago consumers had to pay for a peek at their official FICO scores. But that's history. Now you can get your score for free if you know where to look.

How to use your score

For free FICO scores you can thank the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The CFPB pushed the heads of major credit card companies to allow consumers no-cost, regular access to the official FICO score that lenders use, not educational scores likes the ones banks, credit card companies and others often offer consumers instead. The CFPB argued that consumers who can monitor their credit scores are able to improve their credit and avoid delinquency.

Monitoring your score adds to the control you have over your financial life. FICO scores range between 300 and 850; the higher the score, the better your creditworthiness.

Your credit score is meant to predict the risk of lending to you. It is generated when a company like FICO runs data from your creditors through a mathematical formula.

You can see that data, too, in the form of a credit report. It's smart to keep an eye on those reports, too, since they reveal what merchants and lenders are telling each other about you.

The government requires the three major credit reporting companies — TransUnion, Equifax and Experian, which collect data and produce these reports — to give consumers one free every 12 months. You can get these free credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com. Monitoring your credit reports lets you keep an eye out for identity theft and reporting errors from creditors.

Learn more about getting credit reports and correcting errors from "How to Get Your Free Credit Report in 6 Easy Steps."

"7 Fast Ways to Raise Your Credit Score" tells how to boost your numbers.

Watch your score's movements

Still, credit reports don't include your credit score. You have to get that separately.
It is instructive and kind of fun to watch your FICO score go up or down as you borrow, repay and apply for credit. Also, an unexpected change might alert you to fraud or an error reported by a credit bureau.

How good is the score you see?

Some fluctuation in a score is to be expected. It may move around in response to how you manage your credit, pay your bills and take on new debt.

Despite the decided improvements, a big problem that remains for consumers is the inconsistency among the scores offered, even the FICO scores, writes Washington Post columnist Michelle Singletary:

Even the scores under the FICO brand can vary. FICO has updated its scoring model several times. But this does not mean that lenders use the latest versions. So even within the FICO scoring system, the score you get free could be different from the one a lender eventually pulls when you apply for credit. Still, FICO — new or old — is the go-to scoring system for most lenders.

Getting a free FICO score still takes a little finesse as it's available from a limited (but growing) number of sources. If you ask FICO for your score, be prepared for a $19.95 charge.

Here are six ways to access your official FICO score free of charge (Looking at your credit score does not affect your credit, by the way):

1. Credit cards
Banks can offer their credit-card holders a look at their FICO scores through FICO's Score Open Access.
Who's eligible: Holders of these cards can access their FICO scores, typically by checking the account online:

  • Discover: TransUnion FICO scores are on monthly bills
  • USAA: Enroll in free CreditCheck1
  • Merrick Bank: GoScore, a free benefit, includes emailed FICO scores
  • CapitalOne: CreditWise, a free benefit, lets users track FICO scores
  • First Bankcard
  • Bank of America
  • Barclaycard US
  • Citi
  • Chase Slate card
  • American Express

2. Auto loans
Who's eligible: Car buyers financing through these companies can see their scores:
Ally Financial
Hyundai Capital America (including Hyundai Motor Finance and Kia Motors Finance)

3. Credit unions
Who's eligible: Some credit unions give cardholders free access to FICO scores. Among them are:
Pentagon Federal Credit Union
North Carolina State Employees' Credit Union
Digital Federal Credit Union (DUC)
Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union

4. Student loans
Who's eligible: Borrowers and co-signers of Sallie Mae Smart Option undergraduate student loans can see their FICO scores.

5. Checking accounts
See if your bank offers free FICO scores with checking accounts. Some 100 million U.S. accounts come with free FICO scores, MarketWatch reports.

6. Credit counselors
Who's eligible: You can see and talk over your FICO score by making an appointment with a credit counselor at one of the nonprofit credit-counseling agencies that purchase credit scores from Experian, a credit-reporting agency. These agencies buy credit reports and FICO scores to help in offering credit and financial counseling.

Through FICO's Score Open Access for Credit & Financial Counseling program, participating agencies can share FICO scores with members. The aim is to "aid consumers who have credit management problems by providing FICO scores along with credit education material that helps consumers understand credit scoring and learn about responsible financial health management," FICO says.

When calling one of these credit counseling agencies for an appointment, be sure to ask if you will be able to see your FICO score. If the answer is no, keep shopping. Participating national organizations include:

The NFCC explains what to expect in these private conversations:

Your visit is not reported to a credit bureau.
Visiting a credit counselor does not affect your credit score.
Nonprofit credit-counseling agencies offer help for free or at very low cost.

Alternative credit scores

Plenty of other sites offer free credit scores, just not FICO scores. If you can't get access through any of the cards or accounts above, consider an alternative score. You'll at least get a reading on your credit that you can monitor and compare over time.

Be aware that numerous websites advertise free FICO scores, but there's a potentially expensive catch: These are gateways to fee-based services. You must sign up with a credit card to get a free peek at your FICO score.

You can get free non-FICO credit scores from:

FICO's score estimator

Answering 10 questions at FICO delivers an estimated range for your FICO score.

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