As mortgage servicers, credit card issuers and other creditors allow consumers to hold off on making payments during the coronavirus crisis, it's more important than ever to track your credit score. You want to see that it's not taking a hit, unfairly or erroneously.
Your credit score — derived from your credit history and necessary for obtaining credit cards, mortgages and other financial products on good terms — used to be tough to get your hands on.
Often you had to pay a fee of at least $15 for a peek at your score, and you might have decided the cost wasn't worth it.
Well, good news: Companies today have made it easier than ever to obtain a free credit score, and there are several ways you can get access to yours without paying a cent.
1. Get a free credit score online
You can receive free credit scores from online providers like Credit Sesame. All you have to do is sign up for the service, and you'll get a free FICO credit score — along with access to free credit monitoring.
"We believe complete financial transparency is a consumer right, which is why we worked so hard to bring free credit monitoring to consumers. Your credit score and information on your credit report have a very real impact on your bottom line," says Adrian Nazari, CEO and founder of Credit Sesame.
Free services provide online access to a credit score from at least one of the three major credit bureaus — Experian, TransUnion and Equifax — giving you an accurate picture of your credit status. Just be wary of any provider that asks for credit card information.
Remember, looking into your credit score does not count as a hard inquiry into your credit and is not one of the factors that will affect your score.
2. Obtain credit scores through credit card issuers
If you have a credit card, you might be in luck. Several card issuers provide credit monitoring or credit scores for cardholders as a perk.
Issuers might include:
- American Express: Free monthly FICO score, the most common type of credit score.
- Barclays: Free FICO scores plus credit monitoring.
- Capital One: Free VantageScore® 3.0 credit score through its CreditWise® monitoring tool.
- Discover: Provides a FICO score with each monthly statement.
- Chase: Provides all cardholders with online access to their FICO score.
If you don't already have access to a rewards credit card, there are tons with no monthly fee and excellent rewards like cash back or travel points. Access to your credit score is a nice plus.
3. Get a free score when taking out a loan
If you're one of the many American homeowners rushing to apply for a mortgage and refinance, as rates hit all-time lows, you'll receive your credit score as part of the application process.
Applying for a personal loan also will give you access to a credit score. If you apply for a loan and your application is denied, the lender is required by law to show you your credit score.
Plus, the company will let you know which of the major credit bureaus provided your credit report. If you're not satisfied with the result, you can get a copy of your credit report at no extra charge.
Remember, you can request a free copy of your credit report from any of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion and Experian) once every 12 months. Credit reports do not include your credit score, but they're used to calculate it.
Why you need to know your credit score
It's important even in the best of times to have access to your credit score and your credit history — so you can make sure you get the best deal from lenders. Monitoring your credit situation lets you know when you're off track, and you get started on fixing your credit score fast.
Since lenders rely on credit scores to decide on whether to do business with you, keeping tabs on your score will offer you a good idea of your chances of getting a new credit card or other loan approved.
If you don't currently know your score, make sure to get your free credit score today.