You absolutely have to check your credit score before applying for a bunch of credit cards. If you don’t, and your score is sub-par, your application will get rejected and your only reward will be a hard pull on your credit report. That’s not good.
Before grabbing your credit score, you might want to consider grabbing your credit report. They are different, although your score will certainly be affected by what is on your report. The main reason to check your credit report is to ensure that no mistakes were made and that no fraud was present. By law, it is free to obtain a copy of your credit report once per year for each of the three major credit bureaus. Remember you have three reports and three scores from the three major credit bureaus Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
Your credit report(s) will not contain your credit score(s). For many years, credit score information was closely guarded and could not be obtained without paying a fee, but things have recently started to open up. That said, you have to be careful because many of the companies offering “free” credit scores actually require a membership or some sort of annoying commitment. That’s ridiculous and if you come across that, run away.
There are better options now available. We want to highlight the few that don’t require your credit card information or any silly gimmicks. Just a simple credit score.
Until recently, companies offered a credit score that was supposed to be representative of your actual FICO score, but not exactly the same. You may have heard it called a FACO score. There is nothing wrong with this score, and accuracy seems to be pretty good.
Quizzle offers a free credit score based on your Equifax credit report, called a VantageScore credit score, which is on a scaled of 300-850. Most people find that this VantageScore is slightly lower than their true FICO score, but still a reasonable estimate.
Quizzle also offer a free Equifax credit report once every six months. That’s a nice feature. Because it’s free, give it a try (but don’t pay for any of their additional “premium” services).
Credit Sesame has been around for a while and offers a credit score that is based on your Experian credit report. It is not your official Experian FICO score. Credit Sesame uses Experian’s National Equivalency Score (not FICO) to give consumers a better idea of their credit standing, which ranges from 360-840.
Real Credit Scores
As I described in my previous article on travel hacking and credit scores, the FICO score is the most widely used credit score and is the one that most lenders will view when you apply for credit. It ranges from 300-850. A score around 700 is considered good, and if you have a score above 750, you are sitting pretty!
In the last year, we’ve seen exciting changes in credit score reporting. Discover Bank, Barclay Bank, and a few other smaller banks all decided to begin offering free FICO scores to credit card holders. Great news!
Discover now offers free FICO scores provided on the monthly statements of Discover cardmembers. The FICO Scores are based on the data from TransUnion.
In addition to providing free FICO scores, Discover is providing the two key factors explaining what information from a person’s TransUnion credit report influenced his or her particular FICO Score.
We currently take advantage of this free FICO score through the Discover It card. It has quarterly rotating 5% cash back categories and no annual fee. We currently own and use the Discover It card (read comparison here).
Barclays is another major credit card issuer who is now offering the same free FICO score based on TransUnion data. Nearly all of the credit cards issued by Barclay bank include this feature, and you can see your score at any time by logging into your online account.
Just like Discover, Barclay is including additional information about your score, and a graph that keeps track of your score over time. Additionally, you can opt to receive emails instantly when there is a change in your FICO score.
Vanessa and I both have Barclay credit cards, and our current card of choice is the Barclay Arrival card, which offers nearly $450 in free travel as a signup bonus. We both own and currently use the Barclay Arrival Mastercard (read comparison here).
Citi is the most recent bank to offer free FICO scores to card holders. The score is based on your Experian credit report, not TransUnion.
We actually use all of the methods described here to check our credit scores. The free methods are…free, and we each both use credit cards issued by Discover and Barclays, which allow free access to our actual FICO scores.
Don’t apply for new credit cards without knowing your credit score!