Your credit score is just a few clicks away.
Considering how big of an effect it has on your life, your credit score is something you absolutely need to know. Otherwise, you won't know if there's a problem, and you could find yourself getting denied for the best credit cards or paying more interest when you get a loan.
The frustration for many consumers is actually getting a hold of that elusive credit score. It's not like the credit bureaus send you a report card every year. Fortunately, you have quite a few ways to check your credit, many of which won't cost you a dime.
Your many different credit scores
Before you check your credit score, it's important to realize that there are actually many different scores for each consumer. Here's why:
- Scoring systems. There are two main credit scoring systems, FICO and VantageScore, and there are multiple types of credit score under each system. FICO is the much more widely used type of score.
- Credit bureaus. There are three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Each has its own method of calculating your credit score.
Credit score services typically show you one type of credit score from one credit bureau. For example, a site may show you your FICO® Score 8 from Experian or your VantageScore 3.0 from TransUnion.
Scores usually don't vary much from credit bureau to credit bureau, but it can happen if they have different information, which is why you should check your credit reports with each bureau annually.
Your FICO® Score and VantageScore can be very different, though. For example, I've found that my VantageScore 3.0 is often 30 to 40 points higher than my FICO® Score 8.
Without further ado, here are eight free ways to check your credit score and what type of credit score each service provides.
1. Experian CreditWorksSM Basic: FICO® Score 8 from Experian
You can access this service online when you register for an account with Experian. To do so, click "Sign In" from any page on Experian's site, and then click "Sign up" under the "Don't have an account?" heading.
There are two plan options available. For the free plan, click "Get your free report" in the Experian CreditWorksSM Basic section. Fill out your information, and Experian will show you your FICO® Score 8.
2. Discover® Credit Scorecard: FICO® Score 8 from Experian
With its Credit Scorecard service, Discover allows all consumers to check their FICO® Score 8.
From the Discover homepage, click "All Products," and then click "Credit Scorecard" on the dropdown menu that appears. Follow the registration process, and you'll have access to your credit score.
3. Capital One CreditWise: VantageScore 3.0 from TransUnion
Capital One CreditWise is available to all consumers. If you're a Capital One cardholder, you can access it through your credit card account.
Otherwise, go to the Capital One homepage, place your cursor over "Credit Cards," and on the drop-down menu, click "Track Credit with CreditWise®" under the "Tips and Tools" heading. Go through the sign-up process to check your score.
4. Chase Credit JourneySM: VantageScore 3.0 from TransUnion
For those with Chase credit cards, there's a "Your Credit Score" section in your credit card account. Those without Chase accounts can click the menu button in the upper-left corner of the Chase homepage, and then click "Free credit score." From there, click "Enroll now" to sign up.
5. American Express: FICO® Score 8 from Experian, VantageScore 3.0 from TransUnion
American Express is unique in that it offers two credit score services -- one that's only for cardholders, and one that's for all consumers.
If you have an American Express card, log in and click "Account Services." At the bottom of the "Personal Details" section, click "View FICO® Score" to see your FICO® Score 8.
Anyone who isn't an American Express customer can click "My Account" from the card issuer's homepage and then click "Free Credit Score & Report" under the "Credit Tools" heading. Register for an account to see your VantageScore 3.0.
6. Bank of America: FICO® Score 8 from TransUnion
Bank of America is a rarity in that it provides your FICO® Score 8 from TransUnion. However, this service is only available if you have a Bank of America credit card. Cardholders can access their scores through their account, either online or in the Bank of America app.
7. Wells Fargo: FICO® Score 9 from Experian
Wells Fargo's credit score service is available exclusively for its cardholders. You'll find this under the "Plan & Learn" heading when you log in to your account. From the drop-down menu, click "View FICO® Credit Score."
Although FICO® Score 9 is the most recent update to the FICO system, FICO® Score 8 is currently more popular. Still, it's good to know your FICO® Score 9, especially since it could become more widely used in the future.
8. Citi: FICO® BankCard Score 8 from Equifax
Citi offers a credit score service, but only to cardholders of certain Citi cards. To access this service, log in to your account and click the "FICO® Score" link.
The FICO® BankCard Score 8 model may be different from what you're used to, because it goes from 250 to 900 points instead of the more common 300-to-850 scale. This model is most often used by credit card companies.
How to choose a free credit score service
If you have a credit card with any of the companies on the list above, you'll probably want to start by using their service. You can also check with any other card issuers you have, or your bank. There are now many financial institutions offering free credit score services, so this is far from an exhaustive list.
To get a more complete picture of your credit, you should check both your FICO® Score and your VantageScore. With the services you just read about, you can do this for free. And of course, if your score isn't where you'd like it to be, now is the perfect time to work on raising your credit.
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