First, Check with Your Card Provider
Mar 29, 2023 By Kelly Walker

According to CFPB, or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, over 50 million Americans can now access their FICO credit scores from the monthly statements of their credit cards. Federal officials have pushed credit card issuers to provide credit card score reports; a new program makes it free for these issuers to do so.

Last year, Barclays and Discover were among the first companies to begin offering free credit scores to cardholders. Now, more and more card providers are stepping into the fray. For example, Chase just made 10 million Slate cardholders' credit scores online, while Citi started offering free credit card scores this year. Bank of America intends to make credit scores available to cardholders this year. This summer, Ally will make them available to all its customers with auto loans.

Other banks are offering short-term deals; Wells Fargo, for instance, allows consumers to get their credit score once annually during a specific time frame.

Many websites provide free credit scores if you aren't receiving one from a financial institution, including Credit.com, CreditSesame.com, and CreditKarma.com. These websites don't request credit card information and provide free credit scores. Depending on your credit, they may recommend credit cards, loans, and other financial goods to you to profit.

Avoid Getting Trapped

Several websites claim that they provide free credit scores. A significant issue with many of them is that they are not genuinely free.

Visitors frequently sign up for a credit tracking service that has a monthly price without realizing it. The FTC, or Federal Trade Commission, tried to stop this practice in 2010. It mandated that "free" websites include a disclaimer stating that AnnualCreditReport.com is the only website permitted by federal law to offer free credit reports (but not free scores).

Credit tracking agencies skillfully avoided these notifications. The most popular of these websites, FreeCreditReport.com, started selling credit scores for $1 and subsequently gave the $1 to charities to get around the FTC regulations.

According to The NY Times, customers who requested credit scores also received a free month of credit monitoring. They must pay $14.95 monthly if they don't withdraw it within 7 days. FreeCreditReport.com, on the other hand, now openly advertises itself as "a component of Experian," the popular credit bureau, and states that "no credit card is necessary" to receive its free credit monitoring service.

But the $1 scheme only appears to have changed. Now, CreditCheckTotal.com provides a 7-day free trial in Experian Credit Report for $1 for a FICO score and three credit reports. The service will automatically cost $29.99 monthly after 7 days, after which you can quit your subscription anytime. Although you can quit anytime, the fine print states that "you will not be able to qualify for a prorated reimbursement of your paid membership price of the current month." But you must still be vigilant while using these sites.

Top websites for free credit reports

There are more sites than ever to receive a truly free credit report, despite the vague usage of the word "free" on some websites. These sites include:

  • Credit Karma
  • Credit.com
  • Bank Rate
  • LendingTree
  • Experian
  • Intuit Mint
  • WalletHub
  • Credit Sesame

Credit Sesame is one of the best credit score monitoring services. Instead of receiving payment directly from customers, these companies either gather revenue from advertising or charge their lenders a fee when a new customer comes in due to the website.

If you're looking for the catch, it's here: The numeric score these websites offer does not correspond to the FICO credit score most financial institutions use when deciding whether to lend money. The three well-known credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, worked together to produce the VantageScore, which they instead provide to you. The VantageScore uses the same fundamental data from the credit reports but a slightly different mathematical method to calculate the credit score.

That does not imply that VantageScores are not worthwhile. They continue to help observe general credit trends and provide an approximation of the metrics lenders use.

Top websites for free credit scores

Contact your credit card provider or bank if you're interested in getting your accurate FICO score. To draw in new clients, a growing number of credit card companies now offer free credit scores. They consist of the following:

  • Bank of America
  • American Express
  • Chase
  • Barclaycard
  • Citibank
  • WellsFargo
  • Discover

Anyone else visiting myFICO.com may be required to pay for access to their accurate FICO score. The website provides one-time and recurring plans. The monthly packages cost $19.95 for basic, $29.95 for advanced, or $39.95 for premier membership. However, the advanced and premier monthly plans include identity theft monitoring.

The Bottom Line

Despite the FTC's efforts to promote transparency, certain sites that offer free credit reports or scores have managed to circumvent the FTC's restrictions. If a website requests your credit card information before providing a credit report or score, you can expect a fee on your credit card statement before long. Therefore, this is where your research should likely begin, as some sites offer free data.