Many credit card issuers offer free credit scores to their cardholders, but Capital One is going one better: It’s offering free credit scores to everyone.
Capital One says anyone, cardholder or not, will be able to set up an account on the newly rebranded CreditWise website or go to the iTunes or Android app store and download the mobile app for free. While many card issuers and websites offer free credit scores to their customers, Capital One is the first major bank to make free scores available to the public. Its original credit score product, then called “Credit Tracker,” was released in 2014.
“After launching to Capital One card customers, we’ve seen incredible engagement and advocacy for the tool,” says Angela Solomon, a spokeswoman for Capital One. “We want to have people’s back when it comes to their credit, and help them understand, improve and monitor their credit score.”
Capital One’s announcement comes two years after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommended that top credit card companies provide free credit scores to their customers. Many issuers now do so, though none had previously extended the offer to non-customers.
CreditWise offers these features to the public:
- Credit score: TransUnion VantageScore 3.0
- Simulator: Customizable tool lets you see how countless financial decisions might impact your TransUnion VantageScore.
- Notifications: Alerts you when your score changes.
- Score summary: Breaks down your score according to key factors — on-time payments and amount of available credit used, for instance — and rates you on each one.
- History: Shows your score’s ups and downs on a line graph.
- Availability: You need to be at least 18 and have a valid Social Security number to use the app.
How CreditWise stacks up
Compared with other free credit-monitoring products, CreditWise favors depth over breadth. It offers only one credit score, from TransUnion, but its credit simulator is among the most comprehensive we’ve seen.
With the credit simulator, you can choose from any combination of 17 credit-influencing events. For example, you could see what might happen to your score if you canceled your oldest card. Or you could see what might happen to your score if you canceled your oldest card and charged $517 to another account and were 30 days delinquent on a payment. It’s unusual to see a credit simulator that’s so customizable.
“People wanted to see how certain decisions were going to affect their credit,” Solomon says. “When designing the app, we really wanted to demystify what goes into credit scores.”
Like many free credit-scoring services, CreditWise doesn’t offer FICO scores, which most lenders use, but it offers VantageScore 3.0 scores, which are based on similar factors. VantageScores are used by seven of the 10 largest banks, according to the VantageScore website.
The CreditWise app’s biggest drawback is that it gives you only one credit score from one bureau. If you want to know your FICO scores or your Experian or Equifax VantageScores, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Start of a trend?
At base, Capital One’s decision to make credit scores available to everyone is a consumer-friendly marketing move. If it takes off, major banks might follow suit. Capital One benefits from the change, because it will likely drive more traffic to its site and help foster positive relationships with millions of potential customers. Meanwhile, it’s a win for consumers, who can stay informed about their credit for free without needing to sign up for a particular credit card or financial product.
If you’re interested only in FICO scores, CreditWise isn’t for you. But if you want to take a detailed look at how the decisions you make today might affect your credit in the future, it’s worth checking out.
This article was updated on April 14, 2016.
Image via iStock.