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How Can I Check My Credit Score?

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Your credit score can impact your financial and personal life, affecting your ability to rent an apartment, purchase a car or open a credit card. Knowing your credit score and the steps you can take to improve your score could give you insight into where you stand financially while monitoring your progress.

Here are three ways to check your credit score, and know that checking your own credit will never negatively impact your score.

Why checking your credit score is important

Checking your credit score is incredibly easy and, in many cases, free. But you might be surprised to find that your score is different depending on where you check it. That’s because most of the free credit score options will give you either a FICO® or VantageScore® credit score based on one of your credit reports from either Equifax, Experian or TransUnion. Because the scoring model may vary, the underlying data on your credit reports might not be identical.

“What’s more important than the exact number is the range you fall in,” said Nick Clements, general manager of mortgages and student loans at LendingTree. “If you’re excellent on a VantageScore, it’s likely you’ll be [all] good elsewhere.” The different credit-scoring models rely on similar data, and you can monitor one or two scores to make sure you’re moving in the right direction.

Keeping tabs on your credit score isn’t just to help you monitor your number. It’s important to keep track of your credit scores because that can alert you to unusual activity and potential fraud. If your personal details have been stolen and used to borrow money, you’ll be able to spot that on your credit report and you’ll see any delinquent payments reflected in your credit score. Checking your score is one way to help ensure that you’re keeping your credit safe.

It’s also a good idea to check your credit score before applying for a loan. You’ll be able to see if there are any errors or other issues that may cause you to get denied.

Option 1: Free credit score tools online

If you’re looking for a free way to check your credit score online, you have a number of different options. Free credit scores and credit monitoring tools are widely available from financial institutions like banks, credit card issuers, credit unions and other lenders.

You also have plenty of options to choose from if you’re looking for credit monitoring services. These services are offered as a way to protect yourself from identity theft. When you’re signed up for credit monitoring services, the company monitoring your credit will send you alerts if they notice any significant changes, like a new loan account being opened. These services can help you stay on top of your credit, but before you sign up, you’ll want to be sure you understand whether you’ll be charged any subscription fees.

We researched the following information about each free credit score provider:

  • Credit bureau and model: Which credit report and credit-scoring model will be used to calculate your score?
  • Updated: How frequently will the service update your credit score? Some programs will only update your score when you log into your account.
  • Includes credit monitoring: Will the service send you an email or text if it detects new or suspicious activity on your credit report?

Free credit score tools online

Company Credit bureau and model Update frequency Includes credit monitoring?
LendingTree TransUnion VantageScore 3.0 Monthly Yes
American Express MyCredit Guide (no requirement to be an Amex cardholder) TransUnion VantageScore 3.0 Weekly Yes
Chase Credit Journey (no requirement to be a Chase cardholder) VantageScore 3.0 Weekly Yes
Credit Scorecard from Discover (must be a Discover cardholder) TransUnion FICO Score 8 Monthly Yes
CreditWise from Capital One (no requirement to be a Capital One cardholder) TransUnion VantageScore 3.0 Weekly Yes
CreditWorks Basic from Experian Experian FICO Score 8 Monthly Yes Experian FICO Score 8 Monthly Yes
Intuit’s Mint and Turbo services TransUnion VantageScore 3.0 N/A Yes


Option 2: Financial institutions that offer a free credit score to members

There are also many other financial institutions that offer free credit scores. You may need to be a current customer or member to be eligible for these programs.

For example, over 100 financial institutions participate in the FICO Score Open Access program that gives their customers a free FICO credit score and credit information. We’ve highlighted some of the larger companies below, as well as those that give you access to scores that aren’t widely available for free. You can find a more complete list on FICO’s website. We also include companies that offer VantageScore credit scores to customers and members.

Credit scores based on Equifax credit reports

Company Who’s eligible? Credit model Update frequency Includes credit monitoring?
Citibank Cardholders who are registered with Citi online FICO Bankcard Score 8, which ranges from 250 to 900 rather than the 300-to-850-scale that FICO Score 8/9 and VantageScore 3.0/4.0 use. Monthly No
Digital Federal Credit Union Credit union members who opt-in to receive a free credit score FICO Score, model number isn’t specified Monthly No
Navy Federal Credit Union Navy Federal Credit Union primary credit cardholders FICO Score 9 N/A No
SunTrust’s FICO Score Program SunTrust credit cardholders FICO Bankcard Score 8 Monthly No

Credit scores based on Experian credit reports

Company Who’s eligible? Credit model Update frequency Includes credit monitoring?
First National Bank of Omaha Credit card customers FICO Bankcard Score 9, which ranges from 250 to 900 Monthly No
Union Bank Union Bank credit cardholders FICO Score Bankcard 9, which ranges from 250 to 900 Monthly No
Wells Fargo Customers with a consumer account who enroll in online banking FICO Score, model number not specified Monthly No

Credit scores based on TransUnion credit reports

Company Who’s eligible? Credit model Update frequency Includes credit monitoring?
American Express American Express cardholders and non-customers who register for the service VantageScore 3.0 Weekly Yes
Bank of America Primary account holder on Bank of America consumer credit cards FICO Score, but it’s unclear what model Monthly No


Option 3: Purchase your credit scores (when it makes sense)

Some companies, including the three credit bureaus, will sell consumers access to their credit scores. Generally, it doesn’t make sense to pay for something when you can get it for free, but there are a few circumstances when you may want to purchase a credit score service.

For example, the paid credit score services may include additional features, such as identity theft insurance and credit monitoring, that aren’t included with a free service. If you’re considering paying for those services anyway, you might as well get a credit score, too. The paid services may also give you access to daily updated scores and reports, while many free options only provide weekly or monthly updates.

Even so, Clements said there are two reasons why it generally doesn’t make sense to purchase your credit scores. The first is that you may not know which score a creditor will use when reviewing your application. Creditors may even use custom scoring models, and a FICO or VantageScore credit score could be just one variable in their model.

The second is that you don’t need to obsess over exactly what score you have with each scoring model, said Clements. “Obsess over the actions that will improve every score,” he suggested. “Keep your utilization down, make all your payments on time and get information that shouldn’t be on your reports off. Don’t worry if one score is 20 points higher than the other.”

There’s one exception, though, said Clements — when you’re planning to buy a home. In this case, many mortgage lenders must use specific FICO scoring models: the FICO Score 2 from Experian, FICO Score 5 from Equifax and FICO Score 4 from TransUnion. Lenders will generally get all three scores, not just one, and use the middle score when making a decision.

These are older scoring models, and many free credit score services don’t have access to them. Because you might know exactly which model the lender will consider and what score you’ll need to get approved (although, there are other factors), buying a one-time or short-term subscription access may be worthwhile. One of the only ways to do this is to purchase access directly from FICO.

The best credit score to check, based on your needs

A credit score from FICO or VantageScore may be just one piece of information a creditor uses to decide whether to approve or deny your application and the terms it offers you. Knowing which score the creditor might use could be helpful in determining your chances of getting approved.

Here’s a general overview of which models the creditors may use during underwriting:

Auto loans: FICO Auto Score 8, or an older version of the FICO Auto Score model.

Credit cards: FICO Bankcard Score 9 is the latest version, but many card issuers still use FICO Bankcard Score 8 or an earlier version.

Mortgages: FICO Score 2 (Experian), FICO Score 5 (Equifax) and FICO Score 4 (TransUnion). These are also called Experian/Fair Isaac Risk Model V2, Equifax Beacon 5.0 and TransUnion FICO Risk Score 04

Personal loans, student loans, and retail financing: FICO Score 8


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