Credit scores are an important part of your financial health, as lenders use them to determine your creditworthiness to buy a house, sign a cellphone contract or even get a job or security clearance.
Many companies offer consumers a “free credit score.“ Unfortunately, some of these free credit score offers turn out to be bait-and-switch scams. The problem was so bad that the Federal Trade Commission stepped in a few years ago to create laws dictating how these offers could be advertised.
Free credit scores still exist, but many of them require you to sign up for a free trial offer and then cancel within a certain time period to avoid a fee. Most require you to give your credit card to the company, and they’ll will automatically charge your card after the trial period ends.
But there are a few companies out there that truly offer a free credit score with no credit card or other payment required.
Many People Confuse Credit Reports and Scores
Credit reports are a record of your credit history, as listed by the credit bureaus. They track credit consumers’ credit history and use it to compile individuals’ credit scores. Your score is a numerical representation of your record, based on a secret formula the credit bureaus use to determine your creditworthiness.
You can always get one free credit report per year, but you can’t always get a free credit score.
The government mandates that credit bureaus provide a free credit report to each person once per year so they can verify the information in their credit profile is accurate.
They do not require the bureaus to give you a free credit score – though the credit bureaus will happily sell you one. To get your free credit report, simply go to annualcreditreport.com.
Why It’s Good to Track Your Credit Score
Your credit score is a good representation of your creditworthiness, and it’s the primary indicator lenders use when determining whether or not to approve a loan application.
Credit scores are also used by landlords, cellphone companies, utility companies, employers. It’s also used during security clearance screenings. If you don’t plan to use credit any time soon, you may not need to know or track your credit score.
But, if you are planning to apply for a loan in the near future or are working to improve your credit score, then knowing where you stand can be helpful. If you plan to track your score on a monthly basis, then using one of the free services below can save you a lot of money over the course of the year.
How to Get Your Credit Score for Free
You don’t need to pay for your credit score if you know where to look. There are two major online companies right now that offer consumers free credit scores based on the information found in their credit reports.
To be clear, these are not the FICO credit score, which is the industry standard. But the scores are based on the same data and should be a good representation of your FICO score. For most people, these scores present a fairly accurate estimate of their FICO credit score, as well as any positive or negative trends over time.
These are a good way to check your creditworthiness if you aren’t planning a major purchase in the near future.
Free Credit Score from Credit Karma
Credit Karma gives consumers a free credit score based on the VantageScore 3.0, an alternative to the FICO score, from two of the three main credit bureaus: Equifax and TransUnion.
They also offer a free credit monitoring service, which helps you track changes as they occur and help monitor for identity theft.
Free Credit Score from Credit Sesame
Credit Sesame offers a free credit score when you sign up for their service. They do not require a credit card or other fee. Credit Sesame also uses the VantageScore 3.0 from TransUnion.
These services may offer you a loan or credit card targeted toward your demographic and credit profile. Some of these offers really can help you improve your credit score or earn better perks, like more cash back other rewards. But, you aren’t obligated to use any of Credit Sesame’s recommended services. You can simply create an account and check your score without buying anything else.
Free Credit Score from Experian
Experian offers customers a free copy of their FICO Score. They also offer credit alerts and basic monitoring. If you need to, you can also upgrade your account for daily credit scores, proactive monitoring and much more.
Experian Free Credit Scores