One of the smartest moves you can make before applying for any sort of financing is determining your credit score. Interest rates are applied based upon this information, so knowing yours could save you a great deal of money.
However, it’s difficult to push for what you deserve if you don’t know what it is in the first place. Getting your credit report is easy, as federal law mandates it be made available at no charge through AnnualCreditReport.com. Getting your actual score is a bit trickier though.
So, here’s where to get your credit score.
Your Credit Card Statement
Many credit card issuers have started providing credit scores on their monthly statements. A number of auto loan companies have done the same. Check your statement if you have either; your score might already be provided to you automatically — and at no charge. Check your online account statements if you’re doing paperless billing.
As part of assessing your financial situation in order to help you streamline your finances, credit counselors often do a soft inquiry of your credit history. This does not affect your score the way one associated with an application for credit (a hard inquiry) would do. Agencies assume you’re trying to be responsible about your use of credit by seeing where you stand.
Too many hard inquiries can lower your credit score because it looks like you’re trying to apply for too much credit all at once. This can make it difficult to get favorable interest rates or take advantage of the best lease deals when you’re getting a car.
Credit Score Services
While they might advertise themselves as providing a free look at your credit score, that peek will come with strings attached. In most cases, they’re trying to get you to sign up for credit monitoring services for which they will exact monthly subscription fees.
They make it look free by offering a trial period at no cost, which can be as long as 30 days or as short as seven. Either way, charges will begin when the trial period ends, unless you optout in full accordance with all of the terms and conditions.
While this is a viable means of gaining access to your credit score, be careful to understand what’s expected of you in exchange for that information.
Go Straight to the Source
Fair, Isaac and Company invented credit scores back in 1958. They began releasing them to the three major credit-reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) in 1991. Fair, Isaac and Company changed its name to FICO in 2009, which is where the term FICO score originates.
Thus, credit scores are available for purchase at MyFICO.com, the website of Fair, Isaac and Company. However, the scores must be purchased; they are not available for free. Similarly, you can buy your score at any of the three aforementioned credit rating bureaus. Be apprised however, your score might differ slightly between each of the three because they apply their own algorithms to the calculations.
One more thing: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau advises consumers to be certain to find out what kind of score an agency is offering. There exists an “educational score,” which differs slightly from the ones lenders use.
Knowing where to get your credit score (and what kind it is) can help you ensure its accuracy, as well as get the best possible deal when you’re financing a major purchase such as a car or a home.