Your credit score is one of the most important numbers in your financial life.
If you have a good score, you can get nearly every credit card (including those that offer huge new customer bonuses) and get low rates on loans.
If you have a bad score, you could run into trouble trying to get something as common as a cell phone.
If you have no idea what your score is — it's worth reviewing especially if you plan on making any large financed purchases in the near future (<5 years).
Ten years ago, when I started personal finance blogging, free credit score services were rare. Most were tied to some kind of trial you had to cancel. Nowadays, the number of companies that offer a legitimately free, no trial nonsense, credit score has ballooned.
First, there were companies like Credit Karma and Credit Sesame, which offered a free VantageScore credit score because they planned on making money by sending credit card offers and loan refinancing offers. Eventually, credit card companies realized it would be a nice perk to offer their members as a way to differentiate themselves.
If you want a score, you should never pay for it. Just pick from some of the sites on the list below to get it:
Non-Credit Card ServicesThis list contains services that are not affiliated with a credit card company:
- Credit Karma – You get two credit scores, both VantageScore 3.0 with one based on TransUnion data and one based on Equifax.
- Credit Sesame – A VantageScore based on TransUnion data, some useful tools too.
- FreeCreditScore.com (Experian data, FICO Score 8 scoring model) – Remember those commercials from years ago? They're part of Experian now and you can get your score and Experian report every 30 days, plus monitoring alerts. You no longer have to provide a credit card to sign up.
- Quizzle – Owned by Bankrate, Quizzle gives a VantageScore based on TransUnion data.
- Credit.com – A VantageScore updated every 14 days with Experian data./li>
- Mint.com – Owned by Intuit, this gives a VantageScore using Equifax data.
Available to Anyone
These two services are associated with credit cards but available to everyone:CreditWise from Capital One (TransUnion data, TransUnion VantageScore® 3.0 scoring model) – CreditWise used to be Credit Tracker and you don't need to be a Capital One customer to use this, though if you have an account you can skip the registration form and get access directly. CreditWise will check your information as often as every 7 days if you log in that often.
CreditWise has some really nice features that other places don't offer. The most interesting one is the Credit Simulator, which let's you simulate what would happen to your score if you did things like pay down debt, make on-time payments for 6-months, 12 months, etc.
For example, my VantageScore is 814 and with 2 years of on-time payments my score would still remain 814. That means for the purposes of VantageScore, my on-time payment history is as good as it gets. If, however, I pay down debt and reduce credit utilization — my score could go up as high as 824.
A few other interesting simulation results:
- If I increase my credit limit on one card by $5,000 my VantageScore would increase by 3 points.
- If I open a new credit card with a $5,000 limit, my score falls by 4 points.
- Cancelling my oldest credit card will cost me 3 points too.
- Allowing all my accounts to go delinquint for 30 days will cost … 274 points!
The only downside with CapitalOne's tool is that it uses VantageScore, which isn't quite “official” though many of those simulation lessons carry over (it's just a matter of degree).
Very fun to play with if you're a nerd like me. 🙂Credit Scorecard from Discover (Experian data, FICO Score 8 scoring model) – Credit Scorecard is one of the newest available to all, not just Discover customers, and if you have a Discover card you can skip registration by logging in directly.
Credit Tracker updates monthly and is based on FICO Score 8, the most widely used FICO scoring model. FICO Score 8 fascinating because it is a little more forgiving than previous scoring models, you aren't hurt as much by a single late payment or nuisance collection amounts under $100 (like a library book).
Available to Credit CardholdersThe following issuers offer a free credit score benefit:
- American Express – If you have a Platinum, Premier Rewards Gold Card, or the Starwood Preferred Guest card, you can view of your FICO Score 8 score based on Experian data.
- Bank of America – Most BankAmericard cardholders will have access to FICO Score 8 credit scores based on TransUnion data.
- Barclaycard – Most Barclaycard cardholders will have access to FICO Score 8 credit scores based on TransUnion data.
- Citi – All Citi cardmembers can see their FICO® Bankcard Score 8 credit score based on Equifax data. This FICO score goes up to 900.
- USAA – All USAA members can see their VantageScore based on Experian data.
With one, or more, of these services you can get a good handle on your credit score without paying a penny (by the way, how does it compare to the average credit score?). Many of these services can be used as part of our free do-it-yourself identity theft protection system to catch unexpected changes early, so even if you don't care about your score it's worth checking out the services.
Did I miss any?