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Free Credit Scores

Since 2003 consumers have been able to receive free copies of their credit reports. Thanks to a provision in the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, a consumer is entitled to one free copy, per calendar year, of his/her credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus through AnnualCreditReport.com. If you have taken advantage of this offer you know that this is a great way to evaluate your report and the information in it. You will also know; however, that these free reports leave off some critical information - your credit scores.

Is there a way to get your credit scores for free?

Yes; and no. Currently, consumers don't have free access to their real credit scores, or FICO scores (the proprietary formula used by the three main credit bureaus). However, a recent piece of legislation in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act has been passed requiring credit card issuers, lenders, landlords, utility providers and other companies that reject an applicant or that take any adverse action because of the consumer's credit score disclose the actual score used in that decision. This rule not only applies to new applicants, but existing customers as well. For instance, if your credit card company takes adverse action against you such as lowering your credit limit or raising your interest rate due to a poor credit rating, then they must provide you the score on which they based their decision. The adverse action notice must also disclose:

  • Where the credit score came from.
  • The date on which the score was created.
  • The range of possible scores for the scoring model used.
  • Up to four reason codes, or top factors that negatively impacted the score, listed in the order of their effect on the score.

The score may be your actual FICO score, or it may come from another vendor. Consumers could even see scores not currently available to the public for purchase, including Experian-based FICO scores, FICO 08 scores, and industry-adjusted scores designed for certain loan categories. The adverse action notification will indicate which company supplied the score. Even if it's not a FICO, all scoring models use the same information and similar formulas. The consumer has an idea of where he/she is and what needs improvement. Remember, only those who have adverse action taken against them due to their poor credit rating will have access to these free scores. If you have good credit, you aren't likely to suffer adverse action and, therefore, won't have access to your free scores.

Credit monitoring services

Offers for "free credit scores" are all over the place. The old adage "you can't get something for nothing" applies here. The deal is you sign up for a fee-based credit monitoring service; you pay nothing for the score as long as you cancel your membership before the end of the trial period. Problem is you have to give your credit card number when you sign up for the "free trial" and most people either forget to cancel in time or miss the deadline due to vague terms and agreements.

This doesn't mean that credit monitoring services are a scam; this is just a clever way to generate business. Signing up with a reputable credit monitoring service is a good idea if you are actively working on improving your scores. For a monthly fee, you will have access to your reports and scores. The fee is generally less than what you would pay for a single copy of your credit report with scores. During the credit repair process you should be examining your report monthly, so going through a monitoring service is a good deal. Even if you already have good credit, credit monitoring is still smart. You should be in the habit of monitoring your report regularly to make sure everything is reported the way it should be.

Credit score estimators

Several Internet sites offer credit score estimators. Based on answers to questions about your credit situation or credit report information, a score range is estimated. Again, these estimators aren't FICO scores, but they do give consumers a general idea of where their credit rating stands.

Here's a look at several sites that offer free credit scores or estimates:


Provides score estimates across five different scoring models, including FICO and VantageScore, based on your credit report with TransUnion, one of the three major credit reporting agencies. The "Credit Report Card" analyzes your performance in the five major factors that make up scores, such as payment history and debt usage. You get both an explanation for each category and a letter grade, A through F. Subscribers can obtain a new report card every 30 days.

Credit Karma

Here you get a real score from TransUnion. It is not a FICO score, but a TransRisk score (TransUnion's own scoring formula) that ranges from 100 to 900. You don't get a copy of your credit report but the score is based on the data in your TransUnion file. Subscribers also get access to a credit report card, which assigns a letter grade to the consumer's performance in five categories, such as percent of on-time payments. It also shows you how your performance compares with that of other Credit Karma members. Another great feature is access to a credit score simulator, which lets you gauge the impact to your score if certain changes hit your credit report, such as a 30-day delinquency.


Equifax also has its' own scoring model, Equifax Risk Score, that ranges from 280 to 850. Again, your report doesn't come with the score estimate but the score is based on your Equifax credit report. Equifax's Credit Score Card tells you your credit score range, where it falls on a scale from low to high and provides a few reasons why your credit rating isn't higher.

FICO Score Estimator

The FICO score estimator provides a score range based on the answers to 10 questions about your credit situation. None of the questions involve any identifying information. These alternatives are good if you're okay with ball-park figures and don't need precise information. But if you want the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding your credit status, your best bet is to order your credit reports, complete with scores, from the three main credit reporting agencies; TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. This will cost you around $30 total, but at least you will have the most comprehensive info that gives the most accurate picture of your standing.