Your FICO® score comes from the Fair Isaac Corporation and is represented as a three-digit number between 300 and 850. The higher the number, the better the score. Your score reflects creditworthiness and risk based on your credit history. More than 90% of the top lenders look at your FICO® score when making credit decisions. You’ll always want to keep an eye on your credit score to make sure lenders and creditors are seeing the most correct version. Several credit card issuers provide free FICO® scores as an added card benefit.
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What Is Your FICO® Credit Score?
It’s important to know that there is no single FICO® score. Each of the three main credit reporting agencies, Equifax, TransUnion and Experian, has a variation of your FICO® score. These variations depend on which information from your credit report they weigh the most. Due to these differences, you’ll usually see one or two scores that are slightly higher than the next. However, each score should remain in the same general credit score range.
Why You Should Check Your FICO® Credit Score
When you check your credit score online, you may not get your official FICO® score. For example, a company might create a credit score using a similar formula. The resulting score will show a good approximation of your FICO® score, but it won’t be exact.
The most common non-FICO® credit score is the VantageScore, a score created by the three credit bureaus. Your VantageScore includes most of the same factors as your FICO® score, but it weighs those factors differently. Many places that offer a free credit score provide your VantageScore. Just note that there can be a difference of 50 points or more between your VantageScore and your official FICO® score.
So why should you care about your FICO® score in particular? While knowing your VantageScore is definitely useful, your FICO® score is the one that most lenders tend to look at. Your FICO® score will help them determine whether to lend to you or not. So if you want to increase your credit card approval chances, make sure your FICO® score is as high as possible.
Which Credit Cards Give Free FICO® Scores?
Luckily, if you have a credit card, you might already have access to your free FICO® score. Many credit card issuers offer free FICO® scores to their customers, with more issuers joining in this practice. Below, we’ve compiled a roundup of major card issuers that do provide this free feature. Plus, checking your score through your credit card will not have any impact on your score.
You can access your free FICO® credit score if you have an American Express consumer credit card. This excludes American Express corporate cards. After going through a successful pilot program, American Express is able to offer this free credit score feature through a partnership with Experian.
Bank of America
All Bank of America credit card customers can access their free FICO® score. The score, which comes from TransUnion, updates each month. In addition to your score, Bank of America provides two interesting charts. One chart displays the changes in your score over time. This is especially useful if you’re trying to raise your credit score so you can see your progress. And if you are trying to raise your score, you’ll like that Bank of America also shares the key factors that are affecting your score. The second chart shows national FICO® score averages.
To view your free FICO® score, just log in to Bank of America’s online or mobile banking. You can also receive text or email notifications when your credit score changes. If you’re not already a Bank of America customer, you may consider opening up a Bank of America credit card to gain access to this perk.
Barclays provides all its credit card customers with a free FICO® score from TransUnion. Cardholders can access their scores through Barclays’ online banking. When your credit score changes, you will receive an email notification along with the reasoning behind the change. Barclays also makes tracking changes in your score easy with a chart of your FICO® score history. This chart becomes available once you’ve had your card for three months and covers the length of time that you’ve had a Barclays account.
Currently, Chase Slate, Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited credit cardholders have access to their free FICO® score through Chase. The score uses data from Experian and updates monthly. To get your score, simply log in to Chase’s online banking system. Chase provides a history of your score and information on the factors affecting your score.
Free FICO® scores are only available to primary cardholders with an open account and sufficient credit history to generate a FICO® score. So if you don’t have enough credit history, you probably will have a low FICO® score, if at all. So if you are just starting to build your credit, it may take a little time before you have a FICO® score. New Slate card customers may also need to wait up to seven days before their FICO® score is available online.
With Citi you can view your FICO® score, from Equifax, for free. Your score is updated monthly. Citi only began offering free FICO® scores in 2015, but this feature is now available with all Citi-branded credit cards.
Discover gives its cardholders free access to FICO® scores from TransUnion. It also allows you to view your FICO® score for the previous 12 months. Not sure why you score changed? Discover provides the key factors impacting your credit score, like high account balances, through its website and mobile app. Unlike many card issuers who only let you see your score online, Discover also puts your score on card statements.
Walmart Credit Card
The Walmart credit card, which is issued by Capital One, offers free access to your FICO® credit score. The only caveat is that you have to sign up to receive electronic statements.
Free access to your FICO® score is available through Wells Fargo’s online banking. All consumer credit card customers can access their scores. Once you’re logged in to your account, you can go to your account summary section to find your score. When you check your score, you will also see the last time your score was updated by Wells Fargo. Scores update either monthly or quarterly.
The Bottom Line
Your FICO® score plays a huge part in your financial health whether you know it or not. Banks and lenders decide your creditworthiness depending on this score. If you have a high score, you’re more likely to get approval for loans and lines of credit. It’s a good idea to check your score regularly, especially if you are trying to build credit or if you are applying for a loan soon.
Thankfully, many credit card issuers now provide access to your FICO® score at no extra cost to you. Most card issuers let you access your score through their online account management system. Start there if you aren’t sure whether your card offers free FICO® scores. You can also call customer service to ask if this is a feature on your card.
Tips for Boosting Your Credit Score
- One simple way to raise your credit score is by correcting inaccuracies in your credit report. As mentioned earlier, there are three main credit reporting agencies, each with a slightly different score version. The good news is that you can get a free copy of your credit report, from each agency, once per year at annualcreditreport.com. Once you get your report, it’s important to take the necessary steps to clean up your credit report.
- When it comes to your credit score, your credit history and your payment history and the amount of debt you carry each account for about one third of your score. That means you can really improve your score by always paying your bills in full and on time. Also be careful about your credit utilization ratio, by not spending too much of your available credit.
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