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Financial reform opens access to free credit scores

'Adverse actions' by lenders lets you see your credit score for free

By Todd Ossenfort

The Credit Guy
'The Credit Guy,' columnist Todd Ossenfort
The Credit Guy, Todd Ossenfort, is a credit expert and answers readers' questions about credit, counseling and debt issues.

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Question for the CreditCards.com expert

Dear Credit Guy,
I have heard we're getting free credit scores as a result of that new financial reform bill. How's it going to work; will we get them once a year like we do the free credit reports? -- Rick

Answer for the CreditCards.com expert

Dear Rick,
You are referring to the new financial reform legislation that has recently been approved by the Senate and House conference committees. The Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010 should be up for final votes in both the House and Senate soon, and President Obama has indicated he will sign it when it reaches his desk.

The provision in the act to which you refer would allow consumers who are denied a loan to receive a free copy of the credit score that the lender used in making that decision. This is unlike the regulation that allows you to view your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus at annualcreditreport.com each year for free. You will only be allowed free access to the credit score used by the lender that denies you a loan or credit or from other entities for other "adverse actions."

One of the main reasons given for not allowing the same free access to your credit score annually as you do your credit report is because credit scores are customized for particular lenders. For example, a credit card issuer and a mortgage lender would typically not be using the same credit score. Each of these scores may be obtained from FICO, the largest provider of credit scores, but the formula used to create the scores would be different. For an auto lender, for instance, the formula might be tweaked to place greater weight on a consumer's record for making on-time payments on previous auto loans.

The important thing to remember is that all types of credit scores are formulated by using the information contained in your credit report.

In addition, you will be allowed free access to your credit score used for any "adverse action," including an increase in your insurance rate, being denied or charged more for a lease or even if you have been denied a new credit card. An "adverse action" would also include if you were offered an interest rate on a loan or credit card higher than what is offered someone with excellent credit.

Should you find yourself in the position of being denied credit, or paying more than others for credit, request your free copy of the credit score the lender used in making its lending decision. Once you have the score, you will still need to access your credit reports at annualcreditreport.com to determine what actions you can take to improve your score. You can find a good resource for improving your score at myfico.com.

Take care of your credit!

See related: Financial reform bill taking shape for consumers, Free FICO scores exist, but aren't easy to come by, New rules could provide millions with free credit scores

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Published: July 5, 2010


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Updated: 12-05-2016


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