How to get a free credit score
Signing up for credit-monitoring and then canceling is only one way to get your score for free.
Over the years, readers have asked me how to get their credit score without a credit card. What they want to avoid is signing up for a free trial of a credit-monitoring service to get their score and then having to cancel the service to avoid being charged. And in some cases, folks don't have credit cards to begin with.
Remember that a credit score and credit report are different. A credit report lists information about you and your credit history, such as what loans and credit cards you have, and your payment history. By federal law, you can get your credit report for no charge through AnnualCreditReport.com. But the report you get doesn't include your credit score.
To get your credit score, you basically have three options:
- Buy it. If you just want to buy your official FICO score and be done with it, myFICO is the answer. MyFICO is run by Fair Isaac Corp., which created the FICO credit-scoring model. Through myFICO, you can buy your credit score for a one-time fee.
- Free trial. Several companies offer your credit score for free when you sign up for a trial of their credit-monitoring services. My personal favorite is Identity Guard, which I've found to be very easy to use, and it offers tools to help improve your score. Other options include creditreport.com, Equifax, and zendough by TransUnion.
- Scores without cards. The third way to get your free credit score is through services that offer scores for free with no credit card required. What's the catch? We'll look at the two primary services -- Credit Karma and Quizzle -- but there really is no catch. They make money through advertisements on their sites, but we haven't found that to be a problem. The scores are not official FICO scores, but we'll talk about that below
Credit Karma. Credit Karma provides you with a credit report card (not credit report) and your credit score as calculated by TransUnion. One of the nice features is that the report card explains those factors that are either helping or hurting your credit score. No credit card is required and you don't have to sign up for a free trial. For more details, you can check out our Credit Karma review.
Quizzle. Quizzle provides a service similar to Credit Karma, except that the credit score comes from Experian. In addition to your credit score, Quizzle provides a budget tool and helps you track and build an emergency fund. You can get more details in our Quizzle review.
FICO score vs. other scores
As noted above, Credit Karma and Quizzle do not provide FICO credit scores. The scores are derived from credit information on file with two major credit agencies, but they do not use the FICO formula. The reason has to do with licensing the formula from Fair Isaac.
That said, the scores do provide a good indication of your credit score and how to improve it. And it's hard to do better than free. Even if you want your official FICO score through myFICO, it's worth checking out the credit tools and scores from Credit Karma or Quizzle.
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Editor Bev O'Shea lives and works in the foothills of the Appalachians. A former copy editor for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Orlando Sentinel, she joined MSN Money in 2007. She's a fan of sunsets, college football and free shipping, among other things.
Having worked as a writer, reporter and editor for more than 25 years, Editor Julie Tilsner is the sort of person who can't help but correct grammar in Facebook postings and on billboards. She's written for BusinessWeek, the Los Angeles Times, Parenting, Redbook, AOL and others. She lives in Los Angeles County with her family and loves to drink wine and practice yoga, although not generally at the same time.
A writer for MSN Money since January 2007, Donna Freedman won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. She also writes about smart money tactics for magazines and on her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
Mitch Lipka has been warning people about scams and shining light on questionable business practices for more than 20 years. Mitch, the consumer columnist for The Boston Globe, has also been a reporter and editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Consumer Reports, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and AOL. He won the 2010 New York Press Club award for best consumer reporting online and was honored in 2011 for his reporting on child product safety.
Marilyn Lewis is an award-winning writer with a passion for getting readers clear, straight information that helps them stay out of financial trouble. A former reporter for The San Jose Mercury News, she works from her home in Port Townsend, Wash. Contact her at MarilynLewis@Outlook.com.
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