Can I get free copies of my credit scores?By now, most consumers likely understand the importance of regularly viewing copies of all three of their credit reports at least once a year. Some might also realize the importance of checking their credit reports in other circumstances, like after they get turned down for new credit or suffer from identity theft. However, knowledge about how to get copies of your credit scores isn’t as standard, unfortunately. This is partly because there are dozens of different kinds of credit scores out there, and partly due to the fact that most services offering credit scores charge money for them (such as AnnualCreditReport.com, which gives you free access to your credit reports, but charges to view your credit scores). Luckily, in recent years free credit scores have become somewhat easier to access. Continue reading as we go into detail about potential risks when it comes to free credit scores and how you can access them reliably.

What to know before looking for free scores

While you might be tempted to go online and click on the first link you see, you’ll want to keep the following in mind when looking for free credit scores:

  • There’s no single “correct” credit score. Contrary to what you might think, you don’t just have a single credit score which can be held up as the “right” score compared to others. This is because there’s no one standard of credit scoring, and as a result, there are many different credit scores calculated for each individual. While any credit score will allow you to effectively eyeball your credit health, it’s important to remember that the score or scores you see might not be what your bank, lender or landlord sees. However, to keep things simple, know that there are three primary scores you’ll see – one from each credit bureau (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion). Often these will be calculated using the FICO scoring system, but note that newer lenders are more frequently using in-house scoring methods, as well.
  • The market for free credit scores is rife with scams and disingenuous sellers. While there do exist real services offering free credit scores – such as Credit Karma – if you search Google for “free credit scores,” you’re more likely to either end up losing money to a service with a hidden subscription fee, risk giving away your data for sale to the highest bidder or possibly something even worse, like a straight-up scam to steal your information. Your best bet is to stick to more traditional and trusted sources when looking for free credit scores, like those we discuss below.

Where can I reliably get free credit scores?

The good news is that more and more financial institutions and services are now offering complementary credit scores, meaning your pool of options for reliable, free scores is bigger than ever:

  • Credit card providers. One unexpected benefit of being a credit card owner today is that most major card issuers, like Bank of America, Discover and Capital One, provide monthly free credit scores as a perk, often available online or printed on monthly billing statements — or both. Make sure, though, that you’re aware of which type of credit score your card provides access to – most will only provide scores from one of the three bureaus, which might differ somewhat from the other two.
  • Banks and other lenders. If you bank with certain institutions or have loans with certain types of lenders, they might allow you to access one of your credit scores upon request or offer it to you as a monthly perk for being a customer. Be sure to speak to someone at the financial institutions you use to learn whether or not this is something that is offered.
  • Legitimate free websites. As we mentioned earlier, there are some websites offering free access to your credit scores that are trustworthy – such as Credit Karma. If you find a site that you want to use, the best approach to take is to thoroughly read the terms of service and any agreements before signing up so you know what you’re getting into. For example, Credit Karma does provide free credit scores, but it also uses your information to market credit cards and other products to you. Be aware what to look for when it comes to a fake or scammy website, and trust your instincts – if you’re being asked for personal details and you don’t feel right giving them out, exit the site and don’t look back.
  • Adverse action notices. If you apply for new credit and are rejected based on your credit score, that same score must be included with the adverse action notice the lender sends. This letter informs you of the reasons for your rejected application, and though this isn’t the most ideal way to get a free copy of your credit score, it’s a good starting point to know how much credit improvement you need.

What should I know about free credit scores?

Any time you get to see your credit scores it’s a good thing, but as we’ve already discussed, the caveat is that free credit scores should be thought of as guidelines rather than exact indicators of your credit. If you’d prefer to know your exact credit scores and get regular updates, a credit monitoring service is a great choice. Although you have to pay for credit monitoring, these are typically multi-feature services that help you safeguard your credit through monitoring and identity theft protection features, while also keeping you up-to-date on your credit health. Most provide regular access to your credit reports, in addition to allowing you to view one or more of your credit scores so you can compare them to one another. Most free services don’t allow you to view and compare multiple credit scores, which is a feature you might find useful as it allows you to compare your credit across a range of different scoring metrics for a broader picture of your financial health. Visit our credit monitoring service reviews to find the right service for your budget and needs.

For more information about building and managing your credit, follow our credit monitoring blog.