As a consumer, it's important to be armed with the right information so you can make sound financial decisions. The first step is to be aware of your credit report and score. By logging on to AnnualCreditReport.com, you can check your reports for free once every 12 months from each of the major credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. But these reports will not give you your credit score. Lenders and creditors use this number to determine whether they will work with you. So, knowing your score before applying for a job, apartment or for any type of credit will give you an idea of whether you'll be approved — and what type of interest rate you will be paying. 

While you can pay an agency or one of the reporting companies for your credit score, you really don't have to anymore. There are a number of websites and credit card companies that will give you your credit score for free. Here are five free services and five credit card companies that provide credit scores to consumers, what each offers and how they differ. (Read about the pros and cons of relying on free credit scores in FICO Or FAKO? The Limitations of Free Credit Scores.)

Free Credit Monitoring Sites:

Credit Karma

Credit Karma provides free credit scores and reports from TransUnion and Equifax that are updated weekly, and don't have to provide a credit card to register. The free TransUnion and Equifax credit scores you get through Credit Karma are based on the VantageScore 3.0 model. The VantageScore  is a newer scoring model created by a collaboration among the three major credit bureaus to create a score that is more consistent from one bureau to the next and more accurate compared with traditional FICO scores. (Learn more in Are Credit Karma Scores Real and Accurate?)

You also get free credit monitoring for your TransUnion report, a credit factors analysis that summarizes key details from your credit report, and a free credit score simulator that shows you how various actions, like adding a new credit card or increasing your credit line, are likely to affect your credit score. Credit Karma also offers a free auto insurance score.

Credit Karma does not sell its customers’ information to advertisers, but it does recommend specific financial products based on your credit profile and it makes money if you open an account with one of its advertising partners through the Credit Karma website.

Credit Sesame

Credit Sesame is another credit monitoring service, but is slightly different than Credit Karma. This one gives members access to their VantageScore from TransUnion. The site also gives you personalized tips based on your credit profile and goals. And finally, it gathers all your credit information and provides you with money-saving options. If you're overpaying in fees and interest, it will give you options you can use to lower those payments. The site also provides credit monitoring and alerts in case your profile or identity is compromised. Consumers can also get $50,000 in fraud resolution assistance for free through Credit Sesame. 

Like Credit Karma, this one doesn't require a credit card to join. 

Quizzle

Quizzle offers consumers a free VantageScore credit score and a free Equifax credit report every three months. Like the other sites in this article, Quizzle doesn’t require users to provide a credit card. The company was founded in 2008 and joined the bankrate.com group of companies in 2015. According to the website, about 2 million people are registered with Quizzle. 

When you view your credit score through your Quizzle account, you’ll see how much factors like your payment history and age and type of credit affect your credit score. Quizzle also provides credit card recommendations and home loan recommendations and receives compensation from those companies. The premium service, Quizzle Pro, provides a monthly credit report and score, 24/7 credit monitoring and other benefits for $8 per month; Quizzle Pro+ contains everything in Quizzle Pro along with several identity theft services for $15 per month.

Credit.com

You can get two free credit scores through Credit.com: An Experian score and your VantageScore 3.0. You’ll have to sign up for a free account, and your score is updated once a month. And you won't be required to put in a credit card to register. The site also offers a free credit report card that shows how the information in your credit report affects your score, and provides tips for improving your score. Credit.com does not sell your data to third parties — it makes money when users apply for offers through promotional links on its website.

WalletHub 

Note: The information below comes from going through the sign-up process myself and creating an account.

By providing your name, address, date of birth and last four digits of your Social Security number then answering a few questions to verify your identity, you’ll gain access to WalletHub’s free credit report and score service. At the end of registration, the site also asks a few personal questions like your annual income, monthly expenses, savings, most important financial need and credit card debt. The score you’ll get is your TransUnion VantageScore and the credit report data are also from TransUnion.

The dashboard shows all of your credit accounts and your balances, while the credit alert section gives you a report card-style letter grade on the factors that influence your credit score. For example, it will tell you if your debt load is too high relative to the income you supplied when setting up your account, or if your credit utilization is too high and hurting your score. Drop-down menus provide additional details like your credit utilization ratio for each of your credit cards. An easy-to-read version of your credit report shows all your current and closed accounts and any negative items like accounts that have gone to collections. A menu bar across the top of the page provides information about financial products and services such as checking accounts and car loans. WalletHub earns money from some of these companies, which advertise and pay for premium placements (For more, see  “Does WalletHub sell anything?)

Sign Up for More Than One

By signing up for each of these five free services, you’ll get a broad view of what your credit score looks like with each of the major credit bureaus. And if you combine CreditKarma or WalletHub’s free TransUnion credit reports and Quizzle’s quarterly free Equifax credit reports with the free credit reports you can get through www.AnnualCreditReport.com, you’ll be in a better position to catch any identity theft in its early stages.

Credit Cards with Free Credit Scores:

Discover Card

Discover Card holders receive their FICO TransUnion credit score for free on each monthly statement. Customers who are establishing their credit history may not see a score until several months of payment history. One factor to consider: Only the primary cardholder will receive a free credit score, while authorized users will not.

Barclaycard 

Barclaycard customers get a free FICO score on their monthly statements. In addition, they can see up to two factors that affect their credit score. These might be things like “balances on bank card or revolving accounts too high compared to credit limits” or “The total of all balances on your open accounts is too high.” This information can help you improve your credit score by changing the way you use credit. Barclaycard also provides a chart showing how your credit score has changed over time once you have three months of credit score history.

Capital One Card 

Capital One rebranded its Credit Tracker with a new name: CreditWise. This service is available to anyone, whether or not you're a cardholder. Through this service, you can get access to your VantageScore 3.0 every month, and you can get alerted to any changes to it. One of the key features of this service is its simulator. This allows you to understand which factors will affect your score and overall credit health — and how. You can see what impact making a large $1,500 purchase on a credit card or taking out a $10,000 will have on your score. 

First Bankcard 

First National Bank offers its credit card users a free FICO Bankcard Score 9, which is a score tailored to credit card lending. It is not, in other words, the score a mortgage lender would use when deciding whether you can borrow money to buy a house, but it will still give you some idea of where you stand. Your score is updated once a month.

Walmart Credit Card 

As a Walmart credit card holder, you’ll receive your FICO score for free each month if you enroll in electronic monthly statements. You’ll also be able to see two reason codes affecting your score.

The Bottom Line

In the past, the only way to get a free credit score was to sign up for a monthly subscription service trial that required you to provide your credit card number. If you decided to keep the service, you would end up being charged a monthly fee. Now, there is a variety of free options available, and most come with additional tools to help you manage your credit and your personal finances. (For more, see More Banks Offer Free FICO Scores.)

If you’re applying for a loan soon and want to get the broadest picture of what your credit might look like to lenders, you’ll want to access several free services to see how your scores vary by bureau and by scoring method. If you just want a general idea of where you stand, the free score on your monthly credit card statement should be good enough.

Disclosure: The author has no holdings in any of the companies mentioned in this article at the time of writing.

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