Despite advertising claims, there’s really only one way to get your free annual credit report—through AnnualCreditReport.com, the official site where consumers can collect their complimentary credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus. But what about your credit score, that vital three-digit number that lenders place so much weight on? Is it possible to extract that little, yet crucial piece of information free of charge?
Unfortunately, the answer is no—the complementary annual credit report does not come with your FICO score. For a fee, you can purchase a separate brand credit score from two of the credit reporting agencies, Equifax and Transunion, after you receive your free annual credit report at the website. These scores, however, are socalled FAKO scores, not true FICO scores. Equifax’s ScorePower and Transunion’s Credit score are the credit bureaus’ estimations of what a person’s FICO score should be based on their own proprietary formula.
So, before shelling out $7.95 or more to get your credit score, consider using one of the many FICO score estimators on the market. The best estimators offer valuable indicators as to what a consumer’s true FICO is. While there are many different types of credit scores, FICO scores are by far the most commonly used. According to Fair Isaac, the company that developed FICO scores, 90 percent of the largest banks use FICO scores when making credit decisions.
Here are several resources for some of the best FICO score estimators:
Bankrate.com. Simple, easy and fast. Answer ten questions about your finances and past payment history, and in less than three minutes, Bankrate.com’s FICO Score Estimator, will give a fairly accurate estimate of your true FICO score. Bankrate’s FICO Score Estimator is offered in collaboration with myFICOScore.com, created by Fair Isaac, the company which originated FICO scores.
Quizzle.com. On this free membership site, consumers can access a credit score developed through CE Analytics, which uses their Experian credit report data in its calculations. The site’s CEO, Todd Albery, claims that the Quizzle FAKO score comes closest to the actual FICO out of all formulas the company has tried. The site also offers a variety of credit improvement tools for consumers looking to invest in such products and services.
VideoCreditScore.com. If you’re the more visual type, VideoCreditScore.com gives a good overview of the steps to estimate FICO scores. The site contains a ‘cheat sheet,’ which gives you the answer that would give you the most points on each component of the score. While that may seem like gaming the system, it’s a great way to see what it would take to make your credit score improve.
MyFICO.com. MyFICO.com is sponsored by Fair Isaac, the company that originated FICO scores. This site isn’t free, however, if you’re planning to apply for a mortgage or other large loan, paying a fee to get your real FICO score makes sense. For $15.95 MyFICO.com provides two true FICO scores: one based on your TransUnion credit report and one based on your Equifax report (Experian-based scores are no longer offered). Why the double FICO score? Each credit bureau has its own set of information for each consumer, so the input for the FICO formula will be different depending on which bureau’s accounts are used.
The fee also gives you a look under the hood, so to speak, allowing you to discover the factors affecting your FICO score, access to your credit report. The site also offers a FICO score simulator, allowing users to estimate how much their credit score would be affected by changes to their financial situation.