Keeping an eye on your credit score is a smart thing to do. Paying for the privilege is not.
Luckily, there are a growing number of resources to check your credit score for free. If you keep an eye on them, there's no need to pay up for an expensive credit monitoring service. Below is a list of some of the best ways to monitor your credit score for free.
Get your free annual credit report from all three credit reporting agencies
A credit score takes all the information from your credit report and distills it into a simple three-digit number. If you really want to be vigilant, it pays to check your credit history your scores are based on.
Visit annualcreditreport.com to get a copy of your report from each of the three credit reporting agencies. You might want to wait to check the report's accuracy until after you notice an unexpected change in your credit score, or you may want to be pre-emptive. Just remember, you can only check each bureau's report once per year for free.
Here's a good primer on how to read your credit report.
More and more credit cards are offering free credit scores with cardholders' monthly statements. Here's a list of major credit card issuers and the specific score information they'll provide cardholders.
- American Express: FICO Score 8 based on Experian data
- Bank of America: FICO Score 8 based on TransUnion data
- Barclaycard: FICO Score 8 based on TransUnion data
- Chase: FICO Score 8 based on Experian data (only available on Chase Slate®)
- Citi: FICO Bankcard Score 8 based on Equifax data
- Commerce Bank: FICO Score 9 based on TransUnion data
- Discover: FICO Score 8 based on TransUnion data
- First Commonwealth: FICO Score 2 based on Experian data
- First National Bank of Omaha: FICO Bankcard Score 8 based on Experian data
- First PREMIER Bank: FICO Bankcard Score 4 based on TransUnion data
- Synchrony: FICO Score 8 based on TransUnion data (available only on Amazon.com Store Card, Walmart Credit Card, Walmart MasterCard, Sam's Club Credit Card, Sam's Club MasterCard)
- Wells Fargo: FICO Bankcard 2 based on Experian data
Smaller credit card companies may offer a free monthly credit score as well. Be sure to check with your credit card issuer to see if they offer a free FICO score as a benefit.
Banks and credit unions
Some banks and credit unions will offer customers a free credit score every month or every quarter. If you have a loan with a bank, it's even more likely they'll provide a free credit score with your account. Here's a short list of banks and credit unions that offer free credit scores to customers.
- 1st United Credit Union: FICO Score 2 based on Experian data
- Ally Bank: Unclear which credit agency it pulls data from and which model it uses (auto loan customers)
- First National Bank of Omaha: FICO Score 8 based on Experian data (loan customers only)
- Premier America Credit Union: FICO Score 2 based on Experian data (available to all loan customers quarterly)
- Sallie Mae: FICO Score 8 based on TransUnion data (available to Smart Option Student Loan customers)
- Star One Credit Union: FICO Score 8 based on Experian data (all customers)
- U.S. Bank: TransUnion VantageScore 3.0 (all customers)
- Wells Fargo: FICO Score, unclear which model it uses or credit agency it pulls data from (all customers)
For a more thorough list of credit unions offering free FICO scores, FICO offers a list of participants in its Open Access Program.
Third-party apps and resources
There are several third-party resources you can use to check your credit score if you don't have an account at one of the aforementioned credit card issuers or banks. These are available to anyone -- you just have to provide your Social Security number. Checking your credit score through these resources will not impact your credit score, as it's just a soft pull, not a hard inquiry.
Here are some places to get a free credit score:
- Capital One CreditWise: TransUnion VantageScore 3.0
- Chase CreditJourney: TransUnion VantageScore 3.0
- Discover Credit Scorecard: FICO Score 8 based on Experian data
- Mint: Credit score based on Equifax data, unclear which scoring model
The following resources provide both a credit score and some form of credit monitoring for free.
- Credit Karma: TransUnion VantageScore 3.0 and Equifax VantageScore 3.0
- Credit Sesame: TransUnion VantageScore 3.0
- Credit.com: Experian VantageScore 3.0
- Freecreditreport.com: FICO Score 8 based on Experian data
- Quizzle: TransUnion VantageScore 3.0 (also offers access to full credit report)
- WalletHub: TransUnion VantageScore 3.0
Be aware that these services often aim to make money off of you either by selling additional services themselves or referring you as a customer to other products. The credit report from all of these resources shouldn't require you to enter credit card information.
Track all three credit reporting agencies
Use the list above to check at least one credit score from each of the three credit reporting agencies. A FICO score is best, as it's the scoring model used in 90% of lending decisions. But you may notice there are many different versions of the FICO scoring model. Most commonly, you'll receive a FICO Score 8, which is a generic credit score. Lenders might use a unique model to make lending decisions on different types of loans.
As long as you regularly keep an eye on your credit scores, you're well ahead of the average American when it comes to staying on top of your finances.
If you know of any additional resources for a free credit score, please reach out to me on Twitter @admlvy.
John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Adam Levy owns shares of AMZN and WFC. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends AMZN and MA. The Motley Fool recommends AXP, EXPN, and SYF. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.