One easy way to get your credit score may be from your bank. Your credit score is a numeric valuation that lenders use, along with your credit report, to evaluate the risk of offering you a loan or providing credit to you.
You can get a free credit report from each of the three big credit agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. With the exception of Experian, you will be charged a fee if you want to see your actual credit score. The good news is that you may be able to get your score for free from a bank or credit card issuer. Here’s how to check your credit score.
- Credit scores are important metrics of creditworthiness that can determine whether you get a loan, what interest rates you pay on debts, and more.
- Credit agencies and the government allow consumers to access their full credit report for free on a limited basis.
- Banks and credit card issuers, however, are increasingly giving their customers free access to regularly updated credit scores, along with credit updates and alerts.
How Your Credit Score Is Calculated
- Payment history (35%) — Regular on-time payments and no bankruptcies or defaults are evidence of good financial management.
- Amounts owed (30%) — An important figure is your credit utilization ratio, the amount of debt that you are carrying relative to your credit limits.
- Length of credit history (15%) — The longer it is, the better.
- Credit mix (10%) — It helps to have both revolving and installment credit.
- New credit (10%) — Too many recent credit applications, which trigger a hard credit check, can lower your score for several months.
Your credit score affects your ability to qualify for different types of credit—such as car loans and mortgages—and the terms that you’ll be offered. In general, the higher your credit score, the easier it is to qualify for credit and obtain favorable terms. Because a lot could be riding on your credit score, it pays to keep track of it—and to work toward improving it when necessary.
Can I Get a Free Credit Score from My Bank?
It used to be that if you wanted to see your credit score, you would have to fork over some cash, for either a monthly subscription service or a one-time look. However, since 2013, FICO (the Fair Isaac Corporation) has allowed lenders to make the previously difficult-to-obtain scores available to consumers for free through its FICO Score Open Access program. FICO announced in December 2018 that more than 300 million people could get their credit scores for free through the program. More than 170 financial institutions and eight of the top 10 credit card issuers participate in Open Access.
Among the participating companies are Bank of America, Citibank, Discover, HSBC, Key Bank, Merrick Bank, Navy Federal Credit Union, PenFed Credit Union, Sallie Mae, SunTrust, Union Bank, and Wells Fargo.
Getting Your Score
If your bank or credit card issuer offers free credit scores, then you should be able to check your score by either logging into your account online or reviewing your monthly statement. There are also other resources that allow you to see your credit score or credit report for free. If you’re wondering whether you should pay to see your credit score, the answer is probably no.
If you’re not sure whether your bank provides access to free scores, or if you have trouble finding your score, contact customer service for assistance.
In addition to free credit scores, some banks offer benefits designed to help you understand—and improve—your score. First National Bank of Omaha, for example, gives you 24/7 online access to your FICO score and shows you which key score factors have affected your number. And Barclays provides your credit score and email alerts whenever your credit score has changed.
VantageScore vs. FICO
It’s important to note that not all credit scores are created equal, and the various banks and credit card issuers may provide access to different scores. Soon after the launch of the FICO Score Open Access program, credit bureau Experian introduced a similar program, which allows banks to share its VantageScore credit score with consumers.
Today, these two systems operate on the same 300- to 850-point scale, and each uses similar criteria to calculate the scores, but they weigh each item differently. With FICO, for example, your payment history represents 35% of your score; with VantageScore, it accounts for around 40%.
The result is that the two scores will generally differ, even for the same person on the same day. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s something to be aware of so that you can make sure that you are comparing apples with apples when tracking your scores.
What’s Free, What’s Not
The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA), passed in 2003, calls for all Americans to have free access to each of the three major credit bureaus’ (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) credit reports once every 12 months. AnnualCreditReport.com, a site sponsored by the three bureaus, is the easiest and most comprehensive site to use to obtain those free reports.
You can also receive one free credit report if you have been a victim of fraud or identity theft, have been denied credit, or have had a change in your current credit (interest rates, credit lines, etc.) as a result of your credit—or if you’re offered a higher interest rate than other consumers get from a creditor.
However, the law does not provide an annual free look at your credit score, and you can’t obtain a free credit score via AnnualCreditReport.com. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that you can’t see those three little (or big) numbers for free. Since 2011, adverse credit-related actions, such as changes in a credit limit or interest based on a credit score, give consumers the right to view the credit score used in the determination.
MyFICO.com allows consumers to purchase their FICO score from any of the three credit bureaus for $19.95 per FICO score report. You may also purchase the consumer version of your credit score directly from one of the credit bureaus or other sites. But beware: That number may be different (usually higher) than your FICO score. MyFICO says a person’s consumer score could be as much as 100 points higher than their FICO score.
Some Free Credit Score Sites
Many banks and credit card companies now offer their customers a regularly updated snapshot of their credit score for free, though the calculations may vary from company to company. Experian now offers a free FICO credit score on its website.
Even though free consumer credit scores aren’t FICO scores, there’s a good case to be made for reviewing them. “They can be great indicators of overall credit health, alert consumers to potential fraud issues, etc.,” says Thomas Nitzsche, media relations manager at ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions.
Despite the differences, if you want to see the consumer version of your FICO score, the most reputable sites include:
- Experian CreditWorks
- CreditWise from Capital One
- Credit Karma
- Credit Sesame
These sites don’t require you to provide your credit card to check your score, which means that you can check it as often as you want at no cost. “The caveat is, I’ve seen these scores be inflated as much as 60 to 70 points higher than the FICO score banks and other lenders will see,” says Pamela Capalad, a certified financial planner and advisor in New York City.
And check your wallet for a free look at your credit score. Some credit cards, such as the Discover it Cash Back Credit Card, offer you a free FICO score (the genuine banks-and-lenders version) based on your TransUnion credit report once every month with your statement.
The Bottom Line
Your credit score affects your ability to obtain credit and the terms that you’ll be offered. Up until recently, the credit score industry was fairly covert, and it was difficult (or expensive) for most people to get their hands on their score. Today, however, a growing number of banks and credit card issuers provide credit scores free of charge, which is hugely valuable for consumers who are trying to track and improve their credit health.