credit & debt

How to Get a Free FICO Score

A new program lets lenders provide customers with their scores at no cost.

By now, you may tune out TV commercials touting offers for free credit scores -- which often have expensive strings attached. But there’s a new way to get a free score that is truly free. Through the FICO Score Open Access program, lenders can provide FICO scores at no charge to their customers, who see the same scores that the lenders are using to evaluate their accounts.

Lenders may also offer customers additional free material from FICO, such as a personalized statement of significant factors affecting your score. You may be able to see the score through your online account with the lender, on paper statements or with mobile devices. Keep in mind that the version of the FICO score that your credit card company reveals may not be the same one that, say, your auto or mortgage lender uses.

Just a few lenders are on board so far: Barclaycard US, First Bankcard (the credit card division of the First National Bank of Omaha) and Discover. Those issuers are initially providing free scores only to holders of certain credit cards, including Barclaycard Arrival and Discover It, with plans to roll out free scores to more customers in early 2014.

Outside of the Open Access program, you’ll likely have to pay to see your FICO score -- unless a lender denies you credit or approves your application but charges a higher rate than the customers with the best credit get; then it must reveal at no charge the score that it used to make the decision.

Not eligible to get a free FICO score? The free credit scores available through Credit.com, CreditKarma.com and CreditSesame.com are worth a look. None of them are the widely used FICO scores, but they can be a good gauge of your credit standing.

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