Unfortunately for consumers, getting your credit score is not as easy as obtaining your free credit report. The world of credit scores is still a bit like the Wild West, with many websites offering several forms of your credit score at varying costs.
Finding the best way to get your credit score can be complicated. Here are some popular places to obtain your credit score with a variety of features, costs and the credit scores given.
The score you’ll get: A FICO score from TransUnion and Equifax.
Costs: $19.95 one-time fee per each score. Paid monthly subscriptions available.
Using the myFICO site to get your credit score takes you directly to the source of the score that’s used by 90 percent of top lenders. myFICO is owned by Fair Isaac, the company responsible for creating the FICO score.
The score you’ll get: An Equifax FICO credit score.
Costs: $19.95 one-time fee. Subscription options for non-FICO scores and other products.
Buried behind several credit monitoring offers that come with a monthly fee, Equifax offers a FICO score. For a one-time $19.95 fee, you’ll get your Equifax FICO score.
A one-time credit score and report from all three bureaus costs $39.95 for non-FICO scores. Equifax offers other credit score subscriptions bundled with other services.
The score you’ll get: Unlimited access to your Equifax score, with once yearly access to scores from all three credit bureaus. Additional credit features.
Costs: Subscriptions starting at $17.95 per month.
Experian offers the benefit of credit scores once a year from all three credit bureaus with their subscription service. However, the scores are not FICO scores.
For Experian Credit Tracker, which appears to be the primary service Experian is pushing, it’s $1 for a seven-day trial and then $17.95 a month after that. However, while this plan gives unlimited access to an Experian score, it doesn’t include the same for scores from the other two bureaus.
Right now, there’s no way to simply purchase an Experian FICO score. Unless you apply for a loan or can request scores elsewhere, you’re stuck with FICO scores from the other two bureaus or generic Experian Scores.
The score you’ll get: Your TransUnion score with unlimited updates as well as other add-on features.
Cost: Free seven-day trial with credit card required, then $16.95 per month.
TransUnion provides access to your credit score with a free seven-day trial of their TransUnion Credit Monitoring service. A credit card is required for the trial, and you’ll automatically be billed $16.95 per month after the trial period ends. This service doesn’t provide FICO credit scores.
The score you’ll get: Three scores supplied by TransUnion.
Cost: Free, no credit card required. Contains ads for related services.
Credit Karma offers three credit scores for free. They explain in their FAQ section the three scores that are offered: TransRisk NewAccount Score, VantageScore and Auto Insurance Score, each supplied by TransUnion. The VantageScore model was developed by all three credit bureaus and “introduces the first, consistent scoring methodology shared by all three bureaus.”
In addition to the scores, Credit Karma contains several free tools to assess and improve your credit score. This includes a credit report card, which grades your credit usage and history, as well as free credit monitoring.
In exchange for free scores, you’ll have to put up with some ads, which aren’t very hard to ignore if you’re not interested.
See our Credit Karma review for more information.
The score you’ll get: An Experian Credit Score and VantageScore, plus a FICO score estimate.
Cost: Basic service is free, no credit card required. Ads for other services.
Credit.com is partnered with Experian, and users can get a free Experian credit score along with a VantageScore provided by Experian. While neither of these is a FICO score, Credit.com does estimate the score for you.
As with other free credit score options, Credit.com creates a “soft pull” on your credit report, which will not influence your credit score.
Credit.com’s basic service is free. The site includes offers and rates for other financial products including credit cards and loans.
The score you’ll get: A score based on your Experian credit report.
Cost: Free, with monthly paid plans offered.
Quizzle provides a free credit score based on information on your Experian credit report. This score is called a CE Credit Score, and it’s published by CE Analytics. Quizzle goes on to explain that this score “is considered a consumer score, meaning its sole purpose is to help educate you.”
Quizzle’s basic plan is free, with certain pages and features that will prompt you to sign up for a paid account.
Quizzle offers a variety of plans with an upgraded feature starting at $7 a month that include credit monitoring, trends and analysis of your credit.
Check out our Quizzle review for more.
The score you’ll get: An Experian National Equivalency Score.
Cost: Free, with ads for other services.
Credit Sesame uses data from Experian to provide what’s called an Experian National Equivalency Score. So there’s no confusion, Credit Sesame explicitly states in its FAQ section that it’s not a FICO score.
Credit Sesame provides graphical representation of your credit score and usage and compares your scores to your peers. Credit Sesame offers free credit monitoring and loan tracking, too.
Credit Sesame advertises offers for mortgages, auto loans and other financial products.
See our Credit Sesame review for more info.
Free from a lender after being denied the best rates
The score you’ll get: Any credit score that was used to give you other than the best rate.
Cost: Any fees associated with your loan application. No cost for the actual score.
Thanks to the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, credit issuers must provide you with a free credit score if you’re offered a loan at any rate other than the best rate.
Technically, they have two options: either provide a borrower with a “risk-based pricing” notice and a credit report or a free credit score. Usually the latter option is given, providing potential borrowers with a score at no charge. You’ll likely receive a FICO score, as most lenders use some variation of this model in lending decisions.
What’s the best way to get your credit score?
As you can see, there are various options when it comes to getting a credit score. But not all options are equal. A few points to consider:
- Unless the score you’re buying or accessing says it’s a FICO score, it’s probably not. FICO claims its credit scores are used by 90 percent of the top lenders, so you may end up with the closest thing by choosing a FICO score. If you want your true FICO scores, your only option is to buy from myFICO for Equifax and TransUnion scores and then go directly to Experian for your FICO score there.
- Even a FICO score doesn’t necessarily tell you everything you need to know. FICO alone has 49 versions of your score, making it nearly impossible to pin down your true credit score. These scores are calculated for different purposes, and each type is then calculated by the three credit bureaus.
- Scores can be drastically different. For example, just from enrolling in these free accounts, I received a credit score of 788 from Credit Sesame, but a 716 from Quizzle. Credit Karma and Credit.com fell in between those two scores.
There is some good news for dealing with all of these scores. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau released a report in 2012 about credit score. In the report, it says:
The CFPB found that for a majority of consumers the scores produced by different scoring models provided similar information about the relative creditworthiness of the consumers. That is, if a consumer had a good score from one scoring model the consumer likely had a good score on another model.
Knowing your actual credit score might not be as important as understanding you credit report and knowing how to improve your credit score.
If you’re simply looking to check credit scores as a guide rather than pin down an exact number, consider starting with free options like Credit Sesame and Credit Karma. If you’re having trouble with credit or may be applying for a loan soon, think about purchasing your true FICO scores from myFICO.