free credit scoreWhile many credit card providers these days include credit scores printed on billing statements or make them available to view online for cardholders, you might be surprised to learn that some providers have begun offering free credit score tools (and sometimes credit reports) as a separate service to anyone who wants to sign up. In a world where it’s becoming increasingly important to be aware at all times what’s in your credit reports, many people could benefit from free, up-to-date access and monitoring of their credit scores and credit reports from the three credit bureaus. It’s no sweat to get a free copy of each of your credit reports once a year, thanks to a federal mandate that ensures all Americans access, but the same is not true of credit scores.

That’s why tools like the newly introduced MyCredit Guide from American Express (a NextAdvisor advertiser) are something we are excited to tell you about. Offered by multiple credit card providers, including Chase, Discover, Citi (a NextAdvisor advertiser) and Capital One, these tools typically provide free credit scores along with a handful of other credit-related features geared toward helping users keep a firm finger on the pulse of their financial heartbeat. To learn more about the free credit score tools available right now and find out whether it’s something worth your time, keep reading.

What are the pros and cons of these tools?

The pros

The most significant benefit of a tool like this is the ability to see your credit score for free. Since many of them also provide basic credit monitoring and will alert you to significant changes in your credit report (e.g., a new inquiry), they can be useful for identifying possible fraud or other problems (like credit reporting errors). Credit education is nothing to sneer at, and the insight into what aspects of your credit behavior are helping or hurting your credit score, as well as the use of score simulators to show you what certain actions or consequences can do to your credit score, is invaluable. Finally, as the secondary purpose of this type of free credit score tool is to screen potential cardholders for personalized offers, it’s a good way to find out which cards you might pre-qualify for from a provider, if you’re shopping around for a new credit card.

The cons

It’s important to note that none of the free tools we’re discussing in this post offer credit scores from more than a single credit bureau. Something we stress frequently is the need to monitor all three of your credit reports and scores to get the most accurate and full picture of your credit health. Because few creditors report to more than one of the three major credit bureaus, if you are only ever looking at your report and score from a single bureau, you are effectively missing out on two-thirds of the picture. So, if you do use one of these tools, it’s important to also utilize AnnualCreditReport.com to obtain copies of your other credit reports (Equifax and Experian), which you are free to do by law every 12 months. Additionally, remember that there are many different models out there for calculating credit scores — what you see if you use one of these tools isn’t necessarily what a lender will see if you apply for new credit. As a final note, to sign up for any of these tools, you’ll have to provide personal information including your social security number, address and contact details (e.g., email address). If you’re concerned about data breaches and your privacy, then you will want to be sure to read the full terms and conditions and privacy policy before signing up to use one or more of these tools.

Credit card providers offering free credit score tools

A handful of credit card providers now offer credit score tools for free to anyone, not just those who have an account with the provider. The signup process for each is fairly quick and simple, usually requiring personal information (including your social security number). You’ll usually also have to verify your identity by answering a series of questions based on information in your credit report.

American Express: MyCredit Guide

free credit score MyCredit Guide dashboard

Credit information provided: VantageScore 3.0 credit score and a credit report provided by TransUnion, both of which are updated monthly. Your current score is shown, along with a historical graph that displays up to 12 months of your credit score history. Additionally, a credit summary offers bite-size statistics drawn from your credit report (e.g., credit history length, number of inquiries in the past two years).

Credit monitoring features: Any significant changes to your credit report will be flagged and you can receive alerts on the site as well as by email (you can elect to opt out of the email alerts by unchecking the box in your account settings).

Financial education tools: Credit, identity theft and money management education articles as well as a credit score simulator that lets you see what would happen to your score based on a myriad of situations. These include basic stuff like increasing your credit limit on a credit card to some more specific situations, like having a lien on your taxes.

Other notable features: MyCredit Guide is also available on mobile, for access anywhere.

Capital One: CreditWise

free credit score CreditWise credit education tools

Credit information provided: VantageScore 3.0 credit score and a credit report provided by TransUnion. Credit scores are updated on a weekly basis, and the credit report updates when new information is available. In addition to a separate score simulator page, CreditWise features mini score simulators to accompany different aspects of your credit profile — for example, if you click on New Accounts on the home page, you’ll see a pop-up with information on the number of new accounts opened in the past two years, why it matters and a new accounts simulator to test out different situations (e.g., taking out a personal loan or borrowing money to buy a car). It’s by far the most robust and detailed credit score simulator of any of these. You can also see personalized tips for improving your credit score.

Credit monitoring features: Alerts show up in your account if certain changes are detected in your credit report, and you can see your alert history.

Financial education tools: No specific credit education section is outlined, however, as noted above, the main page features detailed information on the different factors that impact your credit score which can help you understand what you’re seeing and why.

Other things to know: You are required to provide a cell phone number during enrollment, because that’s how Capital One CreditWise verifies your identity. It is not clear whether there are any other options for those who do not have a cell phone.

Chase: Credit Journey

free credit score Credit Journey credit report section

Credit information provided: VantageScore 3.0 credit score and a credit report provided by TransUnion. The credit score is updated weekly, the credit report when changes are detected. You are shown a chart of your score history to track its progress.

Credit monitoring features: Critical changes to your credit report will be sent to you as email alerts (which you can’t opt out of). You can also read alerts you’ve received on the website.

Financial education tools: A credit education section has a handful of articles discussing credit basics, and the credit score simulator on the homepage lets you simulate a credit score based on a number of parameters. The score simulator isn’t as robust as that offered by American Express’ MyCredit Guide, but it’s still fairly comprehensive.

Other notable features: A second tab in the credit report section lets you access the Dispute Center, which offers guidance with reporting problems on your credit report to the proper channels.

Discover: Credit Scorecard

free credit score Credit Scorecard dashboard

Credit information provided: FICO Score 8 credit score from Experian, which refreshes every 30 days. Your downloadable credit scorecard is laid out on the homepage with tabs showing your credit score, total accounts, length of credit history, inquiries, revolving credit utilization and missed payments. You also get personalized tips for improving your credit score and information as to how each element is impacting it.

Credit monitoring features: None, but you can feasibly keep tabs on the information displayed in the scorecard — it’s not something you’d want to rely on, though.

Financial education tools: A small number of credit education articles and FAQs are linked below your score information.

Other things to know: Unlike the other credit score tools we reviewed in this post, Discover’s Credit Scorecard did not prominently feature credit card offers or advertisements (that we saw).

Citi: Credit Score

free credit scoreCredit Score signup page

Note: We were unable to register for this tool, despite multiple editors’ attempts, so all information comes from promotional material on Citi’s website.

Credit information provided: FICO Score 8 credit score from Experian, available for 90 days only.

Credit monitoring features: None.

Financial education tools: Citi outlines the five categories that make up a credit score and shows you how each is impacting your score. It also has a section for articles on credit and other financial topics.

Other things to know: This service is not meant to be used long-term, as it expires after 90 days and cannot be extended or re-requested. It definitely feels a bit gimmicky and more like a means of pushing credit cards on people than providing credit education the other tools we looked at.

Should you use these tools?

On the surface, tools like this can be valuable for people who want to get a little more in touch with their credit. Between the score simulators and credit education articles, you can learn a lot about your financial health and how to better impact it. That said, the limitations of only being able to view a single credit score (and report, from those tools which offer them) certainly put a damper on the whole thing. In theory, you could utilize a different service for each of the credit bureaus and get that full picture, but we could not locate a free credit score tool from a credit card provider that offered Equifax credit scores and reports to complete the puzzle. If you would like to have similar features across the board for all three major credit bureaus, your best bet is to consider a credit monitoring service. Though they aren’t free, the value to anyone seeking to improve their credit or monitor for potential identity theft and fraud is generally well worth the cost. In addition to the monitoring benefits, these services also offer invaluable assistance in the event you do discover a problem — be it a credit reporting error or fraud. That’s something you won’t get from a free service, which merely provides contact information for the three credit bureaus (if that).

To learn more about credit monitoring, follow our blog, and be sure to check out our reviews of the best credit cards to find the perfect one to suit your needs.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This content was accurate at the time of this post, but card terms and conditions may change at any time. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.