So you want to know your credit score but you don't want to pay for it? You may be in luck.
Accessing your FICO score, which lenders use to judge creditworthiness and decide whether to grant you that loan or credit card, is getting a bit easier. Discover Financial Services is the latest credit card issuer to provide its customers with their FICO scores if they qualify for one of their cards, Bloomberg reports. "Discover it" cardholders will be the first to get their scores on monthly statements. Within the next few months, that benefit will extend to all Discover cardholders, according to the story.
Earlier this month, credit card issuers Barclaycard and First Bankcard of Omaha announced they were offering free FICO scores for their card customers.
Not a cardholder of those lenders? Don't fret. FICO, the credit-scoring company, says it's in talks with many more banks and lenders to offer free credit scores to consumers under its new Score Open Access program. FICO spokesman Anthony Sprauve told CBS News that consumers can have access to their credit scores free from lenders that order the scores from FICO and wish to offer them to their customers. The scores could be mailed to customers in a monthly statement or disclosed in some other format, he said.
Sally Hurme, a project adviser at AARP, says offering cardholders easy access to free FICO scores seems like a good customer relations move.
"While FICO scores don't change that much from month to month for most consumers, knowing and tracking your credit score can help people make sound decisions about getting credit and paying off debt," Hurme says. "A sudden drop in a score could be an early warning of identity theft."
This new openness could also help consumers understand the behaviors that negatively affect credit scores most, such as routinely paying bills late.
For years now, consumers have been able to get a free annual credit report from annualcreditreport.com. However, credit scores aren't included in that report. Numerous websites promise free scores, though generally you have to sign up for a fee-based credit monitoring service. You could see your score for free if you canceled the order before the end of the trial period. Otherwise, the only other way you'd have access to the FICO score without charge was if you were denied credit. Several other websites such as Credit Karma offer free credit scores, though not the FICO score.
Improving your FICO score (it ranges from 300, which is poor, to 850, which is excellent) can save you money. A good to excellent score can help you qualify for the best rates on a home mortgage, credit cards and even car insurance.
Consider these tips to raise your credit score:
- Always pay bills on time.
- Apply for new credit sparingly.
- Keep a few accounts open, even if you primarily use one card, to show that your debt-to-credit-limit ratio is healthy.
- Check your credit report regularly for errors.
- Don't let disputes go into collection.
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