Photo (cc) by Ed Yourdon
Got this viewer question yesterday, and it’s a good one.
Hello. I was wondering that when you get a “free” credit check every year do you really need to pay the fee to see the score? I have tried in the past and i can see a bunch of inquires but no score. Thank you Heidi
Here’s your answer, Heidi
You can have a free look at your credit report once a year from each of the big three reporting agencies (Trans Union, Experian and Equifax) by going to the only place where it’s truly free, annualcreditreport.com.
This might be confusing since our government still allows Experian to defraud consumers by heavily advertising a site called freecreditreport.com: a site that isn’t free at all and is used to sell credit monitoring services. It’s the subject of a class-action lawsuit for deceptive advertising, which isn’t hard to understand since the title of the site is a lie. But that’s another story.
As for credit scores: while you can get your credit report from annualcreditreport.com, you can’t get your credit score there. In fact, you can’t get your credit score free anywhere, at least not the one that’s in most common use, the one from Fair Isaac. They’ll charge you $15.95 to see it. And that’s after being forced to wade through a barrage of more expensive up-sells they attempt, including a $50 option from someone who presents herself as a consumer advocate, Suze Orman: shame on you, Suze.
You can get a look at your credit score free from Fair Isaac by signing up for a free trial of their Score Watch score monitoring service, but if you don’t cancel it within the 30 day window, you’ll be on the hook for a $99.95 annual fee.
Since your credit score is obviously super-important, and is derived from your personal credit history, you may feel justifiably confused by why you should have to pay 16 bucks to see it. The explanation for that I can summarize with one word: lobbying. The financial services lobby in this country is one of our democracy’s most powerful. To get a fair shake for consumers in virtually anything has always been an up-hill battle. In the case of getting a free look at your credit report, for example, it took years. In the case of being able to see your credit score, it hasn’t happened yet.
But true consumer advocates, like me, will continue to point out what a travesty it is for people like you to have to pay big bucks to look at something which is ultimately already yours: your credit score. In the meantime, credit reporting agencies will continue to try to trick you out of your money and people like Suze Orman will continue to line their pockets.