How to View Your Credit Score For Free (For All 3 Credit Bureaus)

FICO Credit Score

Full Disclosure: We may be compensated when you click on links to credit card products from our advertising partners, such as American Express, Chase & Barclays. Opinions on this site are ours alone, and have not been reviewed or approved by the issuer. See our Advertiser Disclosure for more details. Thanks!

Because your credit score can have a big impact on the interest rate you’re offered on loans and credit cards — as well as whether you’ll even qualify — it’s important to keep tabs on this figure regularly.

Unfortunately, though, doing so for free may not be easy — the big 3 credit bureaus will often charge a fee to access to your score. But there are a few ways you can still view your credit score for free with all 3 of the credit bureaus.

How the FICO System Works

You may have heard credit scores referenced as FICO scores. FICO stands for the Fair Isaac Corporation, which is the company that developed the credit scoring system.

credit scores
Your credit score can range between 300 and 850.

In the case of credit scores, FICO takes your credit information and uses it to help lenders and creditors determine whether or not you would be a good credit risk. While FICO itself is not a credit reporting agency, it uses the information provided by the big credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Because there are multiple credit bureaus, you can actually have multiple FICO scores. While each of these bureaus has a slightly different scoring method, your scores will generally range from 300 to 850, with anything over 800 considered excellent and anything under 580 considered poor.

Hot Tip: Your FICO score can differ between the 3 credit bureaus because not all lenders and creditors report information to all of them. So it is beneficial to know your credit score with each one.

What Exactly Is a FICO Score?

FICO scores can impact whether or not you are given credit (like obtaining a new credit card), as well as in other areas: applying for an apartment lease, getting a new cell phone, and even being offered employment.

Lenders and creditors consider your credit score because it can be a fast and reliable way to assess your credit risk. In other words, if a lender provides you with a loan, they want to know the probability of getting paid back.

Approved credit score
A wide range of lenders, creditors, and other entities check credit scores.

 

If you have a low credit score (and are therefore considered a higher credit risk), then the lender or creditor will typically place a higher interest rate on the loan or credit card they’re providing you.

While many people may be aware of this, they don’t always realize how much higher the payment on a loan or a credit card can be, even with just 1-2 interest rate percentage points added.

For instance, with a 30-year mortgage, even a fractional difference in interest rate could equate to thousands of dollars more in payments over time!

Credit Scores Are Not Credit Reports

A credit score is not the same as a credit report. This number is statistically determined based upon various weightings given with regard to your credit history; higher credit scores reflect a more creditworthy borrower.

Although there are several ways to determine your credit score, the most widely used scoring system is FICO. When determining a credit score, different weightings are given to various categories. These include:

  • Past payment history – 35%
  • Current debt – 30%
  • Credit history – 15%
  • Type of debt – 10%
  • New credit – 10%

Different lenders can also vary in what they consider to be a good or poor credit score. For instance, one lender may offer its lowest interest rates to those who have scores of 760 or better, while another lender may be more lenient and offer its lowest interest rates to people who have a score of 730 or higher.

Hot Tip: It’s important to note that different types of lenders may use different FICO scores. For example, an automobile lender may use FICO Auto scores, while many credit card issuers will use FICO Bankcard scores.

How Your Credit Score Is Determined

Your credit score is calculated with the credit data included on your credit reports from the various credit bureaus. Not all lenders and creditors report information to all 3 of the major credit bureaus, though, so remember your score can differ between them.

There are several types of information taken into consideration when your credit score is determined. Each of these can carry a different “weight,” or degree of importance in the overall calculation. These categories include the following:

Your Payment History – 35%

Your payment history takes into consideration your percentage of on-time payments for loans and other credit obligations. Because this category is highly weighted, making your payments on time can be one of the very best ways to get (and keep!) your credit score high.

The different accounts considered here can include payments on a mortgage, auto loan(s), retail accounts (such as gas or department store credit cards), credit cards (such as Mastercard and VISA), and finance company accounts.

Other items that can make a difference in this category include the following:

  • How late a payment was (such as 30 days, 60 days, or more)
  • How many late payments you have made
  • How much money you owe
  • How recently the late payments occurred

Amount of Money You Owe – 30%

One of the other big factors determining your credit score is the amount of money you owe compared to the amount of total credit you have.

For instance, if you have a credit card with a $10,000 credit limit, it’s better for you to have a $1,000 balance as opposed to a balance of $8,000. Here, the lower balance amount would be given a higher rating in terms of credit scoring.

Hot Tip: The amount owed on different kinds of accounts can also make a difference in your credit score. In this instance, owing a mortgage is considered less risky than owing a large credit card balance.

what is a credit score made up of?
Each credit scoring category has different weightings in terms of importance.

Length of Your Credit History – 15%

Your credit history also factors into the weighting of your credit score. This factor takes an average of how long you have had credit and/or loans in your name. If you have a long history of credit, lenders and creditors will have more information about you, and know more about your history of paying your bills.

For this reason, if you happen to have credit cards you haven’t used in a long time, it can still make sense not to cancel these accounts — doing so can actually hurt your overall credit score!

Amount of New Credit and Credit Inquiries – 10%

The number of new credit inquiries you have will also be considered. In this case, it can count against you if you have too many credit inquiries, especially within a short period of time.

Here, there is a difference between a hard credit inquiry and a soft credit inquiry. Hard inquiries can occur when you apply for a mortgage, auto loan, or credit card, whereas soft inquiries (which don’t impact your credit score) can occur via a background check from a potential employer or apartment landlord.

Your Overall Credit Mix – 10%

Your credit score will also be partially based on your total number of accounts, as well as the different types of credit you have. For example, if you have more accounts, you may have a higher credit score…provided that all the payments have been made on time.

Also, the different types of credit you have will be taken into consideration. Here, it’s good to have a variety of different types of accounts vs. just 1 form of credit. For instance, it’s better to have a diversified “mix” of credit, such as a mortgage, a car loan, and a credit card instead of having only credit cards.

How to Check Your Credit Score for Free

There are many ways to check your credit score, but there’s often a charge if you go directly through the credit bureaus. You can also go through FICO directly to check your score, but at a cost of $60.

Hot Tip: The good news is that you don’t have to pay for your credit score if you know where to go!

One free way to get your credit score is to use Discover’s Credit Scorecard. You aren’t required to be a Discover customer to use this service, and checking your score here won’t “ding” your credit.

There are other websites where you can go to view your credit score from one or more of the three credit bureaus. For instance, with Credit Karma, you can check your credit score from TransUnion and Equifax, as well as your credit reports from each. Likewise, Credit Sesame is a site where you can view your credit report and score at no charge.

You can also go to this website to obtain your free credit score and report from all 3 credit bureaus. However, this is via a 7-day trial — after that, you’ll need to sign up for a monthly membership at $29.95. This service provides you with daily credit monitoring and alerts, as well as $1 million in identity theft insurance.

Free Experian Score

To view your score from Experian, there are several free avenues, including:

  • FreeCreditScore.com: Unlike in the past, there is no fee to view your Experian credit report and your credit score from this site. By signing up for this service, you can view an updated Experian credit report and score every 30 days. You’ll also receive credit monitoring alerts that notify you about possible fraudulent activity, as well as new accounts and inquiries.
  • Chase Slate credit card: If you have a Chase Slate credit card, you’ll also gain access to your Experian score for free, updated on a monthly basis.
  • American Express card: Likewise, if you own any of the American Express credit cards, you can simply go online to view your score from Experian. This, too, will be updated every month (if changes are made).

Free Equifax Score

As with Experian, there are strategies you can use for viewing your Equifax score for free, too:

  • Citibank credit cards: If you own any of the Citibank branded credit cards, you can view your updated Equifax score for free via your online card statement. (Note that this free service does not come through Citibank cards that are branded with other entities, such as the Hilton HHonors or the American AAdvantage credit card options.)
  • Huntington Bank Voice credit card: With the Huntington Voice card, you can check out your Equifax Bankcard 02 score at no charge. To do so, you need to sign up for an account; you’ll be given a link to view your info when logging in.
  • DCU Credit Union credit cards: If you have any credit card(s) through DCU Credit Union (or a checking account with direct deposit), you can view your Equifax credit score for free online. This is also updated on a monthly basis.

Free TransUnion Score

Methods of obtaining your TransUnion score for free can include:

  • Sam’s Club/Walmart credit card: If you’re a member of Sam’s Club and you have a Sam’s credit card and/or you own a Walmart credit card (including a Walmart Mastercard), you can find your TransUnion score via your online statement. (Note that this is not the case if you receive paper statements through the mail.)
  • Bank of America credit card(s): Bank of America offers select credit card accounts where you can view your TransUnion score (updated each month) via your online account summary page. If you use one of these cards, there is no charge for this service.

Other Ways to Access Your Credit Score for Free

There are also a few other ways you may be able to access your credit score for free. For example, according to the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, some nonprofit credit counselors and HUD-approved housing counselors can often provide you with both a free credit score and credit report. These entities may also be able to help you review (and if necessary improve) your credit information.

Hot Tip: Consumers can get a copy of their credit reports (1 from each credit bureau) for free once a year by going to annualcreditreport.com.

Also, if you have been denied a loan or credit, you are allowed to obtain a free copy of the credit information from the bureau that the denial decision was based on.

Keeping Tabs on Your Credit Score

Your credit score is not a static number. Rather, these scores can change (sometimes substantially!) as the data in your credit report is updated. Therefore, as your credit history evolves, the information on your credit report should reflect those changes.

When you’re seeking credit, such as applying for a loan or a credit card, it’s important to keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to have a high credit score to be approved. However, a lower score could mean that you’ll be offered a higher interest rate.

Over time, however, if your credit score improves, the interest rate you get could also possibly be lowered. One way to help ensure your credit is accurate is to regularly monitor and check your credit report and credit score to make sure all the information is correct and up-to-date.

The Bottom Line on Your Credit Score

Most lenders and creditors will use your credit score in making their approval decisions. Likewise, many credit cards that have the most lucrative rewards will often be offered only to those who have a certain minimum credit score.

With that in mind, be sure to check your credit score and credit report on a regular basis to ensure accuracy. If your credit score could be improved, think about how your score is calculated and what you can do to improve it — especially following good bill payment habits going forward!

Advertisement

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

10 best ways to use 60,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points (E.g. Fly 2 People To Hawaii, Round-Trip!)

And – discover 10 of the most valuable benefits you’ll get access to as a cardholder.

Disclaimer: Any comments listed below are not from the bank advertiser, nor have they been reviewed or approved by them. No responsibility will be taken by the bank advertiser for these comments.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.