Want a free FICO score? You're out of luck
Credit Score Report
Dear Credit Score Report,
When I got my free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com, I thought I would get my credit score, too. Turns out I just got my credit report. Did I do something wrong? Where do I get my free credit score? -- Mike
Thanks for writing, and congratulations! Yours will be the first question answered in my new column on credit reports and credit scoring.
As for your concerns, you certainly didn't do anything wrong. In fact, you did something very right: You requested information from AnnualCreditReport.com, the only website that offers free credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) to U.S. consumers. Other sites may advertise their services as free (and may even have the word "free" in their names), but in selecting AnnualCreditReport.com for your no-cost credit report, you made the right choice.
Note that I said AnnualCreditReport.com offers "free credit reports" and not "free credit scores." That's because if you're seeking a credit score sans price tag, you're out of luck. Although the federal government requires each credit bureau to provide consumers with a free copy of their credit report upon request once every 12 months, there is no such requirement when it comes to credit scores.
Be aware that while there is more than one type of credit score on the market, your FICO credit score is the number most commonly used by lenders to decide whether to approve you for a loan and at what interest rate. The three-digit FICO score is calculated by putting borrowers' payment history information (collected by the credit bureaus) into a unique formula created by FICO. The competing VantageScore credit score product -- created in 2006 as a joint venture by the three major credit bureaus -- is less frequently considered by lenders.
If you are willing to pay, the simplest way to buy credit scores from the credit bureaus is via AnnualCreditReport.com or myFICO.com.
- AnnualCreditReport.com: Lets you buy credit scores for $7.95 each after you've filled out your information to get your credit report. However, only Equifax provides the FICO version of your score through that site, while both TransUnion and Experian sell you a VantageScore.
- myFICO.com: Provides access to both your Equifax and TransUnion FICO scores starting at $15.95 each. However, you'll have to make a few clicks to get to it. Click on "Products" in the site's main navigation at the top of the page and then click on "FICO Standard" on the next page." Otherwise, if you just click on the big, orange "Start Free Trial" button on myFICO.com's home page, you'll only get access to their Score Watch product, which only includes an Equifax FICO score. (Note: No Experian FICO score is available to consumers through this or any other site, as Experian ended its relationship with FICO earlier this year.)
Whether or not you are willing to pay for your credit score, you can still see the information that goes into your FICO score by examining your credit reports. It is a good idea to periodically look over your credit reports for any errors that could be costing you money unnecessarily.
In other words, Mike, you have the right idea. To get a free copy of your own credit report, either visit AnnualCreditReport.com or use the old-school approach by writing or calling.
Keep those credit score questions coming. Send them to the Credit Score Report.
See related: Free FICO scores exist, but aren't easy to come by, What people are saying about the Credit CARD Act, VantageScore credit score product combines three scores into one, Consumers lose access to major credit score, How to dispute credit report errors
Jeremy M. Simon is a former CreditCards.com reporter who wrote about credit scoring, economic data, credit card crime and other issues. He is based in Austin, Texas. He is a graduate of Vassar College and has previously worked for Thomson Financial in New York City, where he wrote about the stock markets, and Texas Monthly, as well as several publications in Austin.
Updated: August 20, 2010