First option – specialized websites
There is no shortage of websites offering you to get a free credit score and credit report. Are they trustworthy? For the most part – yes. They strike a deal with one or more credit bureaus to source your credit information and then share it with you. The catch is that the website now knows about your credit needs and will be sending you offers of matching credit products. Whenever you accept any such offer, the website receives a small commission. That’s how they make money and can afford to provide a free service.
The commercial basis of those websites is nothing to worry about. Yes, some of them may bombard you with offers to the point of extreme annoyance, but the better ones tend to behave responsibly. And the offers you get might actually be useful, since they are already tailored to your credit profile. All in all, we think that those services are a fair deal.
Perhaps the most popular free credit score service. It sources its information from both TransUnion and Equifax, while most other services have access to TransUnion only. The score you get from Credit Karma is VantageScore. The score updates weekly, as opposed to monthly by most other services.
The website is all free – no trials or hidden costs. They earn money by sending you credit product offers, so you’ll be seeing a bit of those, but you don’t have to accept any of them.
Credit Sesame is another popular service and, in most regards, it is similar to Credit Karma. The exceptions are that it has access to TransUnion only and it updates monthly instead of weekly. Those might seem like downsides, but, for all intents and purposes, the reliability of your score is going to be same as with Credit Karma, so it all comes down to a personal preference.
Quizzle is also among those most commonly mentioned sources. The difference here is that it updates your score only once every three months. If you want more frequent updates, you’d have to upgrade to one of the paid plans. The cheapest plan is $8/month. On top of monthly updates, it offers a bunch of features that help you make sense of your credit profile.
Second option – banks
While most banks offer free credit scores to their clients, some are generous enough to share this information with non-clients as well. Those few that do it have set up separate pages where non-clients can register and access their credit information.
The whole thing is similar to what you get at specialized websites. Only, in this instance, organized by banks. And, instead of getting a variety of credit product offers, you’d be getting bank-specific offers only.
This service differentiates itself from other free credit score providers by the fact that it sources its information from Experian and provides a FICO score. In fact, we found no other free credit score services that offer a FICO score. Credit Scorecard provides some additional metrics of your credit profile and updates monthly.
Those two are somewhat similar, at least on paper. They both pull from TransUnion, provide a VantageScore, update their information weekly, give some additional metrics, and have a credit simulator. The only difference is that CreditWise® provides a credit report, while Credit Journey® does not.
Third option – denied credit application
It’s the law that whenever you are either denied a credit product application or approved, but on worse terms, you should be provided with your credit score for free. The law only applies when the score has been actually pulled for your application. The good news is that in this case you don’t even have to ask for your score – the denial notice will include all the necessary information.
The downsides of such a method of getting a free credit score is that it’s a one time thing and it results in a hard pull against your credit history. A hard pull will temporarily drop your credit score about a dozen points.
A couple things to remember
Whenever there is talk of free credit scores, a few natural suspicions suspicions seem to arise over and over. Let’s address some of them here.
Are you hurting your score by checking it?
No. When you are not applying for any credit products, checking your credit information only results in a soft pull. Soft pulls have no effect on your credit score.
How are those services able to access your credit information?
When you register with those services, you provide your personal information, including your Social Security number, and you give consent for those services to access your credit information. The services then use your consent to ask a credit bureau for a copy of your credit report.
How reliable is the score you get?
It depends. There are dozens of credit score types and subtypes, and with those services you only get one. There is no guarantee that whichever credit company you will be applying for is going to use the same variation of your score. That being said, FICO is considered to be more universal, but even within FICO there are a bunch of further credit score subtypes.
How do you interpret your credit score?
Most sources of free credit scores give you some pointers on the strongest factors affecting your score. The best thing you can do, however, is learn how to read credit reports and order a free copy for an in-depth view of why your credit score is what it is. All three credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, are obliged by law to supply you with one free credit report per year. To order a copy from one or more bureaus, go to annualcreditreport.com. It is the only website authorized to give out free credit reports.
The bottom line
Finding a reliable source of credit score information may present a challenge for people with no credit cards. Luckily, a number of banks and other services have launched credit score products that are not limited to credit card owners. Take a look at our selection of such products and pick whichever one you like. They differ slightly, but not where it matters. For an in-depth view of your credit profile, order a free credit report from a credit bureau and use it to understand why your score is where it is. Good luck!