Monday, March 21, 2011

Free Credit Score - How to Get One

How to Check your Credit Score, a guest post by Luke Erickson editor of Idaho's Two Cent Tips.

Like a mighty king,this three digit number can seemingly grant our ultimate desires or dash them to tiny bits on little more than a whim or a missed payment. This number determines whether or not you can get a loan, including a credit card, a car loan, or a mortgage, and will also determine the rates that you will pay on these loans. Itis also reclusive and mysterious, rarely being seen by the common consumer. Instead it prefers to meet privately with lenders in back offices where your fate is unemotionally determined. Some zealous subjects have been known to pay tribute, by borrowing unnecessarily with the sole purpose of pleasing this number. In fact, this notorious number is not content to simply rule over its own kingdom, but also tries to extend its influence into other areas, such as insurance, rent, and even employment.

Your Credit Score, Your Money & What's at Stake (Updated Edition): How to Improve the 3-Digit Number that Shapes Your Financial FutureBefore I attempt to demystify this number, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page. A credit score and a credit report are entirely different creatures. A credit report lists a detailed  financial history of every single credit account that you’ve established or messed up in the last 10 years or so. Most people have 3 similar but different reports, all of which can be viewed FOR FREE by visiting annualcreditreport. com. A credit score, on the other hand, is a proprietary number that can usually only be accessed by paying a fee. 

Now here is where it gets confusing. You actually have more than one credit score. The main score that lenders, insurers and employers will consider is the Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) score. But there are some alternatives to FICO scores, including Vantage scores which are done by each of the three major credit bureaus, and some financial institutions may even give you a credit score along with your monthly bank statements. Keep in mind that all of these scores are calculated differently, often times on different scales, and may or may not be an indicator of what a potential lender might see. I have seen cases where a credit score can vary by over 100 points for the same person.

Where can I get my score? 
As described previously, you can get your credit score from about a billion different websites, most offering it for free if you but merely sign up for a free trial of some unnecessary monthly service. As you can imagine it is all but impossible to break free from such an agreement. If you want just any old score, with any old agreement, then any old website will do. But if you want your FICO score, without strings attached, there is only one place I would recommend:, but, surprise (to be read with sarcasm) it’s not quite that simple! Do not click the massive red button that says FREE FICO SCORE. As I will describe below, it’s not really free, again another solicitation for some unnecessary service. Find and select the “FICO Standard,” button for a one-time credit check for $19.95. Not cheap, but completely accurate. In addition to your score, FICO standard will give you a FICO score simulation tool which can tell you how your personal score might change given future changes to your accounts. At FICOCreditScoreEstimator/ there is also a free FICO score estimation tool which gives you an estimated score that I found it to be fairly accurate.

Credit Repair Kit For DummiesAside from your FICO score, I would also recommend the “get credit score” button at the top right of your free credit report from This gives you a Vantage score for $7.95, which is becoming more accepted by lenders, and can be an indication of your true FICO score. 

Will checking my score affect my credit? 
According to the folks at, “Statistically, people with six inquiries or more on their credit reports can be up to eight times more likely to declare bankruptcy than people with no inquiries on their reports.” Therefore, the answer is yes, checking your score will reduce your score by about 5 points, each time. Not a big deal if checking only once or twice a year. Also, don’t forget that many lenders will actually show you your score when applying for a loan.

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