The official website for buying your FICO score, myFICO.com, charges $19.95 per credit score request — yes, that’s the cost for each score PER credit bureau. Yet, you can still obtain your FICO credit score for free. We are going to show you how to do just that — and save you from wasting time focusing on the wrong scores!
First, a word of caution …
FICO has created well over 50 different types of scoring algorithms, although only a handful are used by actual lenders. In fact, there are really just two scores that get pushed —
Your FICO score is used by the vast majority of lenders to determine your credit-worthiness. Yet, there are more than 50 different types of FICO scores that exist — although, only a handful are used in most cases. This means your rating will vary, depending on whether your score is viewed by an auto lender, a mortgage broker, or otherwise.
So, you might want to keep up on your credit score progress — this is especially true if you are trying to build up your credit rating. Do not get stressed about the various scores; when these are sold to lenders, only a few of them matter.
Which Credit Score Do You Want?
Your FICO Score 8 is the best reading on you as a borrower. Any other calculation algorithm will mostly just be a slight adjustment from this one. Therefore, your mortgage-based score (or otherwise) should not be far off from your FICO Score 8 calculation.
As the FICO Score 8 is the main product you receive when buying a FICO score, it only makes sense to target it when trying to get your score for free. Yet, there are many ‘free FICO scores’ that rely on older algorithms — as these are outdated, there is no reason to care about them. Aside from your main FICO score, the only other rating to evaluate would be your VantageScore — this scoring algorithm is the primary choice by approximately 10% of lenders.
When you buy your FICO score, you must pay for each bureau’s calculation separately. Requesting your rating from just one of the bureaus could be disastrous — your FICO score calculation depends on the information shown on your credit file. If there’s a big discrepancy between the information on each of your credit reports, that could lead to an inconsistency in score calculations.
Also, do not worry about FICO Score 9 being out — most lenders have not made the shift, and it will be a while before a universal change occurs.
How Can You Get Your FICO Score 8 for Free?
Your FICO Score 8 is obtainable from myFICO.com at a cost ($19.95 per bureau) but this is quite a hefty fee to pay. If you want to get the score for free, you can consider each of the six (and counting!) options below.
1) Ask for Full Disclosure After You Get Pre-Approved
So, a little known fact …
You are entitled to ‘full disclosure’ on pre-approved credit card offers.
This means all you have to do is inquire about one of the pre-approved credit card offers you have received.
Remember, these credit card issuers are required to give you complete disclosure. Even if you are not getting rejected, they still have to tell you what FICO score they factored. This is because your credit rating is a big variable in the interest rate you end up having to pay.
You must be careful about which companies you rely on for this free FICO score method. Many pre-approved offers are just spam, sent by companies targeting certain demographics through assumption and market research. Yet, the three major credit bureaus DO sell and share your information — which ends up in the hands of lenders, targeting borrowers based on their finances and score ranges.
So, ‘your mileage may vary’ does apply here.
If the right company sent you a pre-approved offer, then this method will get you a free FICO score from one of the three credit bureaus. Otherwise, you might just receive the score range you were pitted in by the bureau that shared your information.
2) Have a Student Loan? Sallie Mae May Help You!
In 2014, Sallie Mae split into two to better focus on the products and services that they offer. This change paved the way for Sallie Mae to become Navient, which is the current possessor of over 12 million student loans. Many that set up their student loan through Sallie Mae are not aware of the name change.
If you have a student loan through Sallie Mae, or if you recently set one up through Navient, you might qualify for a free FICO score. They offered this, through TransUnion, for active borrowers who received funds from their student loan during the academic year. Also, it’s not just a one time thing — the free FICO score gets updated once a month.
For those with an active student loan, all you need to do is log-in to your student loan account, go to the ‘Customer Service’ section, and select the link to your credit score.
3) Apply for a ‘Free Credit Score’ Credit Card
Some view applying for a new credit card as a costly venture, but for those trying to build their score up — a credit card that mentions your credit score each month would be a great idea!
There are more than a dozen credit cards that come with free credit scores. Some offer your real FICO score, while many depend on scores calculated through proprietary algorithm. When looking for credit cards that offer free credit scores, it’s important to make sure you are applying for a card that offers your FICO score — not a FAKO score!
The influx of credit card offers like these came as a result of FICO introducing it’s ‘Open Access’ program. This initiative started with the intent of making free FICO scores accessible to all Americans. It allows for lenders to pass on free credit scores to their cardholders.
As of October of 2015, there are already more than 100-million Americans who qualify for free FICO scores through the program.
If you have any of the following accounts, double check in case you already qualify for free FICO scores!
- American Express
- Barclaycard US
- Chase Slate
- Discover it®
- First Bankcard
The increase in bank and credit card related score promotions is only expected to continue; over time, more Americans will have access to free FICO scores as other companies sign up for the program.
4) Denied a Card or Loan? Ask for Disclosure!
If you apply for a credit card or loan and get rejected, you might have accidentally stumbled upon the chance to get your FICO score for free!
Lenders are required to disclose the reason for your rejection, if you ask — so, simply inquire for full disclosure and see what happens. If you get told it’s because of your credit score being too low — which is a common reason — then they will need to disclose that. Chances are, the lender will have used your standard FICO score to determine your eligibility — meaning, when they say your score of XXX was too low, you will have obtained your credit rating at no cost!
Of course, do not go applying with the intent of getting rejected just to get your credit score. Running hard inquiries might not hurt your rating too much at first, but constant rejections will weigh heavily on your credit rating over a period of time.
Now, a few similar circumstances can happen where you could ‘turn the tables’ to get your FICO score told to you for free.
- If you get pre-approved for a loan or mortgage but do not accept the offer, you are still entitled to full disclosure to better understand how they determined your interest rate.
- If your credit card terms (interest rate, limit, etc.) get changed unexpectedly, you are entitled to full disclosure to understand the reasoning behind the change.
- If any of your credit accounts are closed because of a, “sudden credit score drop,” then you are entitled to know the severity of your FICO score fluctuation.
5) The ‘Free Trial’ Offer
There are quite a few credit monitoring and identity theft protection companies that offer “free trial” periods. These are used to show off to the consumer just how cool and useful their features really are. Yet, it exposes the consumer to a lot of freebies if they decide to cancel the plan before a charge is made for the second month of service.
When signing up for a free trial offer, you need to be careful that you are not getting ripped off. There are many seemingly legitimate websites that use the trial period as a marketing scheme. When, in reality, the terms of the deal state that a charge will come out, or a cancellation fee will be charged if you drop the plan.
Simply, getting a free credit score through a free trial offer will be a bit of a hassle — but, it will be worth it in the long run if it’s a one-time need.
6) Use myFICO’s Free Credit Score Estimator
While this is just an estimator tool, it is still fairly accurate for the average consumer who does not know where they stand as a borrower.
The free FICO score estimator asks a multitude of questions that help determine your borrowing status. The answers you give make it easy to assume which credit score range you fit in. While it’s not a 100% reliable source for your free FICO score, it does work well when combined with a few FAKO score calculations.
At the very least, your credit score estimate from myFICO will tell you your FICO score range and make it clear which credit card offers you should consider.
Willing to Settle for Your VantageScore Rating?
Your VantageScore credit rating is still important — and used to determine your financing eligibility by as much as 1 in 10 lenders — so you should not disregard it just yet.
The VantageScore rating algorithm was originally introduced by the three key credit report bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Your score gets calculated the same way, but, like the FICO score, it can read differently depending on which bureau provides it. This will come down to the information you have on file at each of the bureaus — but, thankfully, you will not have to spend approximately $20 for each bureau’s score.
If you have no specific reason for needing your FICO score, it might make sense to obtain your VantageScore rating instead. There are many more opportunities to obtain this credit rating at no cost, and without needing to jump through a bunch of hoops. And, while it’s not necessarily your FICO credit score, the number is still close enough to matter.
Elite Personal Finance does not recommend free credit monitoring instead of paid services, but it’s hard to avoid the benefit of getting your VantageScore for free.
There are quite a few companies that offer free credit monitoring, but here are some of the better ones:
- Credit.com – pulls your VantageScore credit rating through Experian.
- Credit Karma – pulls your VantageScore credit rating through Equifax / TransUnion.
- Credit Sesame – pulls your VantageScore credit rating through TransUnion.
- Quizzle – pulls your VantageScore credit rating through Equifax.
Even cooler, if you spent the time to sign up for different free services — you would be able to get your free VantageScore from each of the three major credit bureaus.
Alternative Products Offering Credit Scores
You certainly want to get your real FICO score before you apply for a mortgage or new car loan. But, it’s not so important when you want to track changes to your score. Instead, you can obtain your credit score through an exterior service — whether it’s credit monitoring or identity theft protection.
Whether you go for credit monitoring or identity protection, the specifics of each service will differ. Make sure to educate yourself on how these companies calculate your credit score; some will use your VantageScore rating, which is much more reliable than the alternative FAKO scores. As such, you might prefer finding a service that offers your VantageScore for the credit score.
Before paying for any services, read up on the best credit monitoring services and the top ID theft companies as reviewed by Elite Personal Finance; what these services can offer will vary a lot, so educate yourself now!
Conclusion: Never Pay for Your Credit Score!
It is almost impossible to justify a reason for bothering with paying for your actual FICO score. The specific number your prospect lender sees might not be the same, and the number itself is not the end-all, be-all of your loan application. The truth is, you will do just fine relying on free credit scores — plus, you can even get your FICO credit rating for free if you tried!
If you are just trying to build up your credit rating, then paying around $20 per month (per bureau) to watch your progress is ridiculous. You can pay around the same for a quality credit monitoring service, which would have many other perks that made it easy to improve your credit. So, if you want regular FICO score readings, you should at least get them “for free” by just paying for your monthly monitoring service.