Free Credit Score - Where to get it

It can be hard to find a free credit score. It can also be hard to find a free credit report. There is a lot of misinformation when it comes to getting free credit scores and credit reports.

Getting a free credit report

First, while there are a lot of websites and companies that claim to offer free credit reports, many of them turn out to not actually be free. Many of them enroll you in a paid program for credit score monitoring or something similar. The website that is generally recommended to get your free credit report is www.annualcreditreport.com. Annualcreditreport.com is is maintained by Central Source and sponsored by Equifax, Experian and TransUnion credit bureaus.

The difference between a credit report and a credit score

It's important to remember that a credit report and a credit score are related, but they are not the same. A credit report is typically a few pages long and contains a lot of information, like what credit card accounts you have and if you've paid those bills on time. On the other hand, a credit score is a quick summary of the information in a credit report. Credit scores are usually three digits. A credit score is a shorthand way to say that you are, in essence, a C+ user of credit or a A- user of credit.

There is not one credit score. A number of different companies produce different credit scores. And those companies may produce different versions of their score, akin to slightly different recipes so the results will also be different. And the data that goes into a credit score calculation is often different among the different credit bureau companies that gather that data. As a result, even if you use the same credit score formula but use the different data from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, you'll likely get different scores. Finally, a credit score is alive; it's not just calculated once a month or once a year so your score may be different this week versus next week versus 6 months from now. All that is to say that you might get A credit score -- but it won't be THE ONLY credit score. So the score a bank is using when deciding whether to make a loan to you may not be the same credit score that you got for free.

Getting a free credit score

As for getting a free credit score, the CFPB (Consumer Financial protection Bureau) has recently released a list of companies that provide this. In most of these cases, customers of these banks and financial institutions get their credit score along with their bill as a courtesy. By comparison, FICO (the Fair Isaac company which calculates the most commonly used credit scores), charges consumers between $20-60/month to check their credit scores (as well as get some other credit services.)

Currently, this list includes these banks and credit unions:

  • 1st United Credit Union

  • American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc.

  • Bank of America

  • Barclaycard

  • Capital One

  • Chase Bank USA, N.A.

  • Citibank, N.A.

  • Commerce Bancshares, Inc.

  • Discover Financial Services

  • First Commonwealth Bank

  • First National Bank of Omaha

  • First PREMIER Bank

  • Harvard University Employees Credit Union

  • Polish & Slavic Federal Credit Union

  • Premier America Credit Union

  • Star One Credit Union

  • Synchrony Bank

  • US Bank

  • Wells Fargo

The CFPB notes that:

"You don’t have to have a credit card to access credit scores free of charge. Some companies, including some on this list, offer the service as a benefit to customers who use other financial products. Companies, including some on this list, may also provide free credit scores to the general public, including non-customers. Remember, though there may be no cost, they may require you to register and enter personal information. Afterward, they may also market products to you. Companies such as FICO, VantageScore, and others maintain and publish lists of companies that offer consumers free access to credit scores.

Other providers of free credit scores

In addition, companies that produce credit reports, such as FICO and VantageScore, also have lists of companies that offer free credit scores. For example, VantageScore numbers can be obtained for free from these sites:

  • Credit.com

  • Credit Karma

  • CreditSesame.com

  • CreditWise (Capital One)

  • LendingTree

  • myBankrate

  • My.CreditCards.com

  • Quizzle WalletHub

The CFPB also maintains a list of nonprofit organizations that offer credit counseling and may provide free credit scores.