Credit & Finance

How to Get Your FICO® Score for Free

By Steve Symanovich, a Symantec employee

You can get your FICO® Score for free in a lot of places. Here are seven possibilities:

  • Your Discover® credit card or website
  • Banks
  • Credit card companies
  • Credit unions
  • Auto loans
  • Student loans
  • Credit counselors

Let’s dip into each source to see if you’re one of the people who can get your FICO Score for free.

Tip: Your Discover credit card or the Discover website is just about a sure thing.

7 places to look for your free FICO Score

Here’s a guide to where you can get your FICO Score for free.

  1. Your Discover® credit card or website – Discover provides a free FICO credit score to all its consumer credit card accounts. The scores appear on cardholders’ monthly paper and online statements. Don’t have a Discover card? Not a problem. Discover also provides free credit scores to consumers through an online tool called Credit Scorecard. Click here to find out more.
  2. Banks – More than 160 financial institutions provide free access to FICO credit scores to their members and, in some cases, non-members. If your bank is on board, you can generally check your FICO Score by logging onto your online banking portal. Click here for a list of lenders participating in the FICO® Score Open Access program.
  3. Credit card companies – If you carry the right kind of plastic, you may be able to get your FICO Score for free. (Depending on your credit card, you may get a VantageScore, instead.) Check out this list to see if your credit card entitles you to a free FICO Score.
  4. Credit unions – FicoScore.com lists more than 40 credit unions that offer free credit scores to their members. See if you can pick out your credit union from this list or visit your credit union’s website to find out.
  5. Auto loans — Want to finance a new or used car? The finance department at the auto dealership will likely pull your base FICO Score and a FICO auto score — a score geared to your history of paying back car loans. You can ask the finance representative to see your scores. Also, if you finance a vehicle through Ally Financial or Hyundai Capital America — which includes Hyundai Motor Finance and Kia Motors Finance — you’ll have full access to your FICO scores.
  6. Student loans — It may not be fun to have student debt, but if you’re a borrower or co-signer of Sallie Mae® Smart Option undergraduate student loans, you can see your FICO Score online for free.
  7. Credit and financial counselors — If you’re a customer of a nonprofit organization that offers credit or financial counseling, some good news: You can probably receive the credit scores and credit reports that your counselor buys on your behalf. The same goes if you’re a customer of nonprofits offering housing counseling. The credit scores and reports are used as reference points to help improve your financial health. Click here for more information about the program. For a list of participating nonprofits, click here and scroll down.

5 things you need to know about your FICO Score

Here are a few quick basics to consider before pursuing your free FICO credit score.

1. Your FICO Score isn’t your only credit score — you’ve got a lot of them — but it’s one of the most important. When making lending decisions, 90% of top lenders use FICO Scores when deciding whether or not to loan you money, and at what interest rate.

2. The history behind the move from fee to free began with something called FICO Score Open Access. Fair Isaac Corp. — creator of the FICO Score — launched the policy in 2013 to educate consumers and increase access to credit scores. It encouraged financial institutions to provide credit scores for free to their customers.

3. A general rule about credit scores: the higher your score, the better. This chart shows how your base FICO Score breaks down in a range of 300-850.

Here are the FICO credit score ranges:

  • 800-850: Exceptional
  • 740-799: Very Good
  • 670-739: Good
  • 580-669: Fair
  • 300-579: Poor

4. Identity theft can be a serious threat to your FICO Score. For instance, a thief who uses your identity to open a new credit card, rack up purchases, and skip out on the bill can push down your credit score. That’s big, since your credit score can influence whether you can get a credit card, mortgage, auto loan, or job.

5. It’s smart to pay attention to your FICO Score, and it’s nice to be able to do it for free.

How is my FICO Score calculated?

Your FICO Score is derived from information in your credit report. Your credit report is a history of how you’ve handled borrowed money in the past.

When it comes to calculating your credit score, your data falls into five categories. Each category influences your credit score. How much? It varies.

Here are the five categories. The percentages reflect the influence each has in determining how your FICO Score is calculated.

  • Payment history (35 percent). Did you pay past credit accounts on time?
  • Amounts owned (30 percent). How much do you owe? How does it compare to your available credit?
  • Length of credit history (15 percent). How long have your credit accounts been established? What’s the oldest one?
  • New credit (10 percent). How many new accounts have you opened in the last two years?
  • Credit mix (10 percent). What types of credit accounts do you have? These might include credit card, mortgage loan, and installment loans.

The factors that go into a FICO Score are based on the borrowing habits of the general U.S. population. FICO may not determine your credit score in exactly the same way.

Ways to increase your FICO Score

It takes time to boost your FICO Score. Here are a few ways to get started.

  • Pay your bills on time. Delinquent payments can lower your credit score. Be diligent and set reminders to pay bills on time. Remember payment history is one of the most important factors in determining your FICO Score.
  • Use credit responsibly. If you have credit cards, be careful not to rack up debt that might be hard to pay down. Remember, your FICO Score reflects not only your amount of debt, but also how it compares as a percentage of your available credit. It’s a good idea to pay your credit card debt in full, on time, every time.
  • Avoid applying for too many lines of credit within a short time. Creditors may think you need money if you make a lot of credit applications. Also, you credit score may drop if a lot of lenders check your credit report.
  • Check your credit reports regularly. Your credit reports may contain inaccurate information. If you see errors, dispute them right away.
  • Avoid closing credit accounts. Lowering the amount of credit you have available could also lower your credit score. Even so, you may want to consider closing accounts you seldom use that have an annual fee.

You can help raise your credit score by practicing responsible financial habits. That way, when you get your FICO Score for free, you might be pleasantly surprised.
 

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