What You Need to Know about “Free” Credit Scores

by Miranda Marquit · 0 comments

You probably know that your credit score is an important aspect of your finances. Your credit score goes beyond just helping you get a loan for a good interest rate. It can also influence your insurance rates, and even impact what happens when you sign up for Internet.

Knowing your credit score provides you with solid information that you can use as you plan your finances. Because credit scores are so important, consumers are starting to want access to them with some regularity. The result is a an increasing number of “free” credit score sites.

Is that Credit Score Truly Free?

First of all, you have to be on your guard when it comes to free credit scores. Some web sites, like FreeCreditScore.com, come with plenty of strings attached. Often, before you can even see your credit score, you have to provide your credit card number — and agree to some type of “membership” or “monitoring” program.

Many of these sites point out that you are getting a free score, and that you have a free trial. However, you provide your credit card number, and at the end of the free trial (usually seven or 14 days) the card is charged. You have to remember to cancel before the end of the trial, or your enrollment is complete and your credit card is charged.

Be wary of sites that ask for your credit card information, in spite of marketing themselves as “free” credit score sites.

Is that Credit Score “Official”?

The next thing you have to worry about is whether or not the credit score you receive is an “official” FICO score. The FICO score is still the most widespread score used, and the one most likely used by lenders making decisions about your loan.

However, most free sites don’t offer you a true FICO score. There are truly free sites that don’t require your credit card number. Quizzle, Credit Sesame, and Credit Karma all provide you free access to a credit score. However, it’s important to realize that the scores offered to you aren’t the same scores that lenders look at when making decisions about you.

These sites are great for monitoring your general progress, but the difference between the score you see at a free site and your FICO score can be as much as 20 points — or more.

Even many of the sites that require you to enter a credit card number for your free trial before seeing your score don’t have your “official” score. If you are really interested in getting your FICO score, you need to purchase it from MyFICO.com. And even then, FICO gives you the “consumer” score, and not the exact version that your lender might be using.

Bottom Line

You probably won’t get the exact version of your credit score used by any given lender when you get it for free — or even when you pay. However, these sites can help you keep tabs on your situation, and track your progress. Skip the sites that require a credit card number but still call themselves “free,” though. Instead, stick with one of the truly free sites for a general idea of where you stand.

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