More credit card issuers and banks have begun offering their customers free FICO credit scores over the past few years, particularly after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau called for them to do so in 2014. But Discover has now upped the ante by offering free FICO scores to all consumers — not just its own customers.
“Discover recognizes how important it is for consumers to have a clear understanding of their credit health. That’s why we have provided our cardmembers with FICO scores for free since 2013,” Julie Loeger, Discover’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer, said in a statement. “Now, we’re extending this benefit to everyone.”
Free for all
Capital One opened the door to free credit scores for all consumers when it retooled its credit score tracker, renaming it CreditWise. The Capital One score is based on the VantageScore 3.0 model, which was developed by the three credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
VantageScore provides a general snapshot of credit health. However, most lenders use FICO scores when they make decisions on approving loans or credit card applications. That's why Discover's offer of free FICO scores to all consumers is so significant.
"Most free credit scores you'll find online come from VantageScore," says Sean McQuay, NerdWallet's resident credit card expert and a former strategist at Visa. "Discover is doing consumers a very real service by offering access to real FICO scores for free."
Getting your FICO score
To access your free FICO score from Discover, create an account at CreditScorecard.com. You'll need to supply personal information, including your Social Security number, then answer questions to verify your identity and set your security questions.
You'll get your three-digit FICO score, a description of "how lenders see your credit score" and notes about what factors are helping or hurting your score. Your credit information is updated every 30 days, and you can download your current Credit Scorecard to compare it to your next report.
There's also a link to AnnualCreditReport.com, so that you can check your credit report. Federal law entitles consumers to one free credit report annually from each of the credit reporting agencies. AnnualCreditReport.com is the authorized site for accessing those free reports. In between times, you can check a free credit report summary, updated weekly, from NerdWallet.
Discover's Credit Scorecard also has tips on improving your credit score and offers answers to frequently asked questions, such as "Will checking my credit score hurt my FICO score?" (No.)
Who's offering free scores
Discover's announcement is a big plus for people who don't already have access to free scores from their bank or credit card issuer. Here's where major card issuers stand:
Free Credit Score Type
Who Can Get It
Bank of America
Customers with consumer credit accounts
Note: FICO scores provided by different credit card issuers may vary. That's because issuers get FICO scores from different consumer credit bureaus. Each bureau collects consumer account data independently, and it calculates scores based only on the data it has collected.
With credit scores and credit reports playing such a central role in Americans' financial lives, a free FICO score is definitely worth checking out, McQuay says. "Regular financial checkups are just as important as physical checkups," he says, "and checking your credit score is a simple way to get a quick view on the state of your finances."