Your credit scores are constantly changing as new information is added to your credit reports. Knowing your credit score tells you where you stand so that you can take advantage of the best credit card and loan offers and avoid having your applications rejected.
Thankfully, three are several ways you can check your credit score quickly and easily online. We’ll tell you where to get your credit score for free and go over the difference between getting a free FICO credit score vs. a VantageScore credit score. We'll also outline the advantages of opting for more comprehensive (paid) credit monitoring.
Where to get your credit score for free
There are three main ways you can check your credit score for free. You can get your free credit score through a credit card company or loan provider, the three major credit bureaus, or an online credit monitoring service.
Credit card and loan companies
If you have a credit card or loan, then your lender may provide you with free credit scores or free credit reports, either on your monthly billing statements or through a complimentary credit-monitoring service.
Complimentary credit monitoring is a common perk that lenders provide to their customers. Some even offer free credit scores to anyone, regardless of whether they’re an account holder.
Credit Card Companies That Provide Free Credit Scores
|Credit Card Company||Type of Score Provided||Who Can Access|
|Barclays US||FICO® Score||Cardholders|
|Discover||FICO® Score 8||Cardholders|
|Wells Fargo||FICO® Score 9||Cardholders|
|Citibank||FICO® Bankcard Score 8||Cardholders|
|Bank of America||FICO® Score 8||Cardholders|
|American Express||VantageScore 3.0||Anyone|
|Capital One||VantageScore 3.0||Anyone|
It isn't a coincidence that FICO scores are harder to access. We’ll explain later on why you have different credit scores, how the scoring models compare, and why some credit scores are more important than others.
Credit reporting agencies
There are three main credit reporting agencies in the US. All three credit bureaus provide consumers with access to their credit scores, but they don’t all offer the same type of score:
|Credit Reporting Agency||Type of Score Provided|
|Experian||FICO® Score 8|
Online score-monitoring services
You can also check your credit score for free without a credit card or loan by signing up for a credit-monitoring service. The companies below offer quick and easy online access to your credit scores absolutely free of charge:
|Online Score-Monitoring Service||Type of Score Provided||Credit Reporting Agency|
|Credit Karma||VantageScore 3.0||Equifax and TransUnion|
|Credit Sesame||VantageScore 3.0||TransUnion|
None of the companies above provide free FICO scores or tri-bureau credit monitoring. However, you can sign up for score monitoring with two or three of these companies to get an idea of what your VantageScore is with all three credit reporting agencies.
Will checking your credit score lower it?
No, checking your credit score won’t hurt your credit. In fact, no matter how you go about checking your credit score, you won’t face any penalties. This is because credit scoring companies differentiate between different types of credit checks to avoid penalizing you for being responsible by monitoring your credit.
There are two distinct types of credit checks:
- Hard credit check: You receive a hard inquiry or hard pull when you apply for a new credit account, such as a loan or credit card. Hard inquiries usually take a few points off your credit score because they can be a sign that you’re struggling financially.
- Soft credit check: You receive a soft inquiry, or soft pull, when you check your own credit. Soft inquiries never hurt your credit score.
Free vs. paid credit scores: What’s the difference?
As you may have gathered, you have multiple credit scores. You have FICO scores, VantageScores, and scores with each individual credit bureau. You even have separate industry-specific scores, such as bankcard and auto loan scores.
Most credit scores you can access for free are VantageScores. The free FICO scores you can get are usually only available to people who hold a credit account with a specific bank or financial institution.
FICO vs. VantageScore
Not all credit scores are FICO scores, and understanding the differences between FICO and VantageScore is crucial for getting a complete picture of your credit profile. The truth is that although FICO and VantageScore use similar algorithms, your FICO score is usually a more accurate representation of what lenders will see when you apply for a new loan.
FICO scores were first developed in 1989. VantageScores were invented much later, in 2006, as a collaborative project among the three main credit bureaus. FICO has long been viewed as the industry leader, with their models being used in over 90% of lending decisions.
Why some credit scores are free (and what the catch is)
Free credit scores can be wildly different from the credit scores you’d get from your creditor or a credit-monitoring subscription. While they can give you a good general impression of your credit health, they won’t necessarily tell the whole story.
In most cases, free scores are only free because they’re provided through company partnerships. The downside to this is that you’re only seeing your credit score according to one type of scoring model, and the score you’re seeing is almost always based on the information in only one of your three credit reports.
Lenders often only report to one or two credit bureaus, meaning that key information could be missing from your free credit score. The only way to make sure that you’re getting a complete picture is to sign up for tri-bureau credit monitoring.
Why opting for a paid service might be worthwhile
Signing up for a trustworthy tri-bureau credit monitoring service is the only way to ensure that you always have up-to-date and reliable information on where your credit score stands. This is particularly important if you’re planning to open a new credit account in the near future.
Monitoring your credit for at least 1 year leading up to a major credit application can help you correct any errors in your credit reports that may be damaging your score. It’ll also help you gradually improve your credit score so that you can qualify for the best interest rates and loan terms.