NEW YORK (6/2/15)--You no longer have an excuse for not knowing your credit score.
For more than 10 years, consumers have been able to get their credit reports for free at AnnualCreditReport.com. Sponsored by the federal government, the website allows you to look at a detailed list of your financial history, including payments and accounts, as reported by the three big credit bureaus.
But until recently, it’s been much more difficult to get a look at the number that lenders look at when you apply for a loan or credit card to decide how big a risk you pose. Now there are a number of places to get your credit score for free (Forbes May 13).
Where to start
Many card issuers are now providing your FICO score for free. Your FICO score, which ranges from 300 to 850, is the one used by the vast majority of lenders in the United States, and more than 50 million Americans can now find it on their monthly credit card statements, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
More credit card issuers are offering free FICO scores every day, due in part to pressure from federal officials to do so. Call your credit card provider and ask if it offers a way for you to access your credit score for free.
Websites offering free credit scores
A number of websites offer you your credit score for free. One is savvymoney.com, which in addition to providing you a free score allows you to track and compare key data.
These free sites are supported by targeted ads based on your credit situation. The credit score these sites provide--while a good indicator of your credit worthiness--is what’s called the VantageScore. Not nearly as many lenders use that score as FICO.
Beware of sites that require your credit card number to access your score--they’ll often automatically enroll you in a trial membership.
Your credit union also might offer your credit score when you access its online banking portal. You’ll also learn your credit score anytime you apply for a loan.
Know your score
Knowing your score--and being able to monitor it in real time--is a powerful tool. Your credit score not only determines whether you’ll be approved for a loan, but it determines your interest rate. An interest rate just a few points lower can potentially save you thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.
Even if you regularly check your credit score, remember to check your credit report for free three times a year at annualcreditreport.com for any errors or accounts you didn’t open. Make one request every four months in rotation among the three credit agencies so you can monitor your credit report year round.
Otherwise the first hint you’ll get that something is amiss is when your credit score drops precipitously.
For related information, read “Six Slam-Dunk Ways to Trash Your Credit Score” in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.