Lenders and some service providers use your credit history as part of their decision to do business with you. Credit scores (numbers based on the information in your credit history) are an easy way for those people to understand how risky a borrower you are, and while credit standing isn’t the only factor in lending decisions, it’s important enough that you should pay close attention to it.
You’re entitled to free annual credit reports, which are incredibly helpful in managing your credit standing, but just like it is for your potential lenders, it’s easier for you to understand how your behaviors impact your credit by looking at a credit score. There are several ways you can obtain your credit scores, but some of them cost money.
It’s also important to note there are hundreds of credit scoring models, and you’ll never know which one someone may use in evaluating you. Still, if you compare the same scoring model over time for your own information, you’ll have a good idea of where you stand. Some scores are educational, meaning they’re not used in credit decisions, while others are used by lenders.
If you want to know your credit score (or better yet, check it regularly), here are some ways to get a free one.
1. Your Creditor
Several months ago, FICO announced its Open Access program, which allows certain credit cardholders — including Discover and Barclaycard holders — free access to their FICO scores through their card issuer. Depending on how the issuer administers the program, you can see your score every month or every quarter, either on your account statement or through your online account.
Other credit card issuers have implemented similar services, like Capital One, which offers some cardholders free access to its Credit Tracker tool. FICO Open Access will also extend to new student loan borrowers through Sallie Mae, starting with student loans disbursed in the coming academic term. Check with your lender to see if they have a free credit score program.
2. A Rejection
This isn’t exactly how you’ll want to go about getting your free scores, but it’s an option: If you’re rejected for credit because of information on your credit report, you’re required to be given an adverse action notice with the name of the credit bureau that issued the report used in the decision. You then have 60 days to obtain a free credit report from that bureau. Sometimes, adverse action notices include the credit score used in the lending decision.
3. Credit Sites
There are a variety of sites that provide free educational and lender-used scores. Credit.com is one of them. You receive two lender-used scores (an Experian score and VantageScore 3.0), with updates available every 14 days.
Using sites like this allow you to track your progress in building credit, which can be extremely helpful if you plan on applying for credit in the future or just need some guidance and motivation for developing better financial habits.
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