3. Credit unions
A growing number of credit unions also offer free access to FICO scores, including:
- Pentagon Federal Credit Union
- North Carolina State Employees’ Credit Union
- Digital Federal Credit Union (DCU)
- Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union
4. Checking accounts
Ask your bank if your checking account allows you free access to your FICO score. A growing number of U.S. banks and credit unions offer free FICO scores with accounts, MarketWatch reports.
5. Credit applications
Whenever you apply for credit, ask the lender who checks your credit score to share it with you. It’s only a one-time glance at your score — not an ongoing way to monitor it — but it’s a useful to see the score the lender is looking at when assessing you for a loan.
This approach won’t work when applying for a credit card application done by filling out a form online. But when applying for a home loan, refinancing, personal loan or vehicle loan in which you work with a company representative, ask the person pulling your credit to share your score. After all, if they can see it why can’t you?
In fact, you have a right (under the Dodd-Frank Act) to see your credit score if you are denied credit or offered a rate “other than the rate that the lender gives its best customers,” MyFICO says.
6. Auto lenders
Vehicle buyers financing purchases through these companies have ongoing access to their FICO score:
- Ally Financial
- Hyundai Capital America (including Hyundai Motor Finance and Kia Motors Finance)
7. Student loans
Borrowers and co-signers of Sallie Mae Smart Option undergraduate student loans can see their FICO scores at no charge.
8. Credit counselors
FICO’s Score Open Access for Credit & Financial Counseling program allows some 30 participating agencies to share FICO scores with people who are enrolled in counseling. (Credit counseling is useful in developing a budget, managing money and getting out from under debt. Read: “Ask Stacy: Where Can I Go for Help With Debt?“)
Unfortunately, FICO does not name the agencies participating in the program. But you can call the National Foundation for Credit Counseling at 800-388-2227 or use the online agency locator to make an appointment and learn more. Before signing up with an agency, ask if you’ll be able to get access to your credit score. If not, look elsewhere.
Also free: A FICO score estimate
FICO’s free credit-score estimator delivers not an exact score but a range — 755 to 805, for example. The accuracy is high if you correctly answer the numerous specific questions (such as “What percent of your total credit card limits do your credit card balances represent?” and “Besides any mortgage loans, what are your total balances on all other loans and credit cards combined?”).
Changing your answers gives you a way to see how you use credit affects your score.
Raise your score
If your score is poor, especially if you intend to borrow money in the future, use these ways to improve it:
- Pay down loan and credit-card balances
- Mend your credit report
- Make payments twice-monthly
- Apply for a credit-limits increase
- Open a new account if you can’t get your credit limit raised
- Become an authorized user on someone else’s cards
- Negotiate to lower outstanding balances
Learn more from “7 Fast Ways to Raise Your Credit Score.”
Confusion? No need
One thing might cause you some confusion when you’re looking for a free credit score: Numerous companies offer other scores that compete with FICO’s.
In particular, VantageScore, a product offered by the three major credit-reporting agencies, TransUnion, Equifax and Experian, is growing in use. VantageScore claims that “More than 6 billion VantageScore credit scores were used from July 2014 through June 2015, by more than 2,000 lenders and other industry participants — including seven of the 10 largest banks.”
You’ll find free access to VantageScore at CreditKarma, Lending.com, Credit.com, CreditSesame, Quizzle, Bankrate and other publishers and financial services. In addition, you may see free access available to several other scoring systems, including The PLUS score (by Experian), TransRisk New Account Score (TransUnion) and EquiFax Credit Score.
These are credit scores, but they aren’t FICO scores. Each has its uses, pros and cons. We have focused on FICO’s scoring system because it is the most-widely used and so, if you choose only one score to follow, FICO’s is a good choice.
Do you know your credit score and do you monitor your credit reports? Share your experience in comments below or on our Facebook page.