With all the hype about credit scores from credit repair companies, many people want to know what their credit score is. Unfortunately, unlike your credit report, you are not automatically entitled to receive one free credit score per year. You can, however, pay for the score, although it’s not always worth the money.
(To learn more about credit scores, see our articles and FAQs on credit scores and reports.)
You can get a credit score from Fair Isaac and other credit reporting agencies that develop or distribute scores. The cost is usually about $15 to $20. Watch out for extra fees for services like credit monitoring; these can drive up the price.
To get your score from Fair Isaac, go to www.myfico.com.
In some situations, a lender that looks at your credit score must reveal your credit score to you. (To learn what circumstances this applies to, see Getting Your Credit Score for Free.)
If you don’t qualify for a free score, should you pay for it? Maybe not; and here’s why.
The companies selling the scores do not have to give you actual credit scores that have been used by creditors. Instead, they can sell you a score that they developed to assist consumers in understanding credit scores.
Even if the credit scoring agency does give you your real credit score, because creditors use different scores (and sometimes generate their own), you can’t be sure that the score you buy is the one any particular creditor will rely on. In 2008, for example, Consumer Reports paid $130 to get 11 different credit scores for the same person. The scores differed by up to 72 points and were judged to mean everything from a fair to a good to an excellent credit risk. Their conclusion: It’s probably not worth the money to pay for a credit score.
Rather than paying for a credit score, you might want to get an estimate of what your FICO score is likely to be. FICO’s free estimating tool gives you a rough idea of your credit score. Go to www.myfico.com/Fico-Credit-Score-Range-Estimator and answer a few short questions. The estimator will provide you with the probable range of your FICO score.
Because your credit score is based on information in your credit report, you can find out if your score is good or bad by reviewing your credit report as if you were a creditor – do you have lots of late payments or delinquencies or bankruptcies? Have you established some long-term accounts that you’ve paid on time for years? Take a look at what creditors want to see, and then compare to your report. (To find out what creditors consider to be important for good credit, see Creditworthiness: Will Creditors Lend You Money?)
The bottom line: The best way to ensure that you have a good credit score is to improve your credit history.
Part of this article was excerpted from Credit Repair, by Robin Leonard (Nolo).