For many years, getting a look at your credit score for free wasn’t always easy.
Numerous companies offered educational credit scoring services to give you a general idea of your score and if you wanted a more accurate number, you could buy a glimpse at your credit score from one (or all) the three major credit bureaus or directly from myfico.com.
However, the credit bureaus — or even myfico.com — are no longer the primary place to go to get a look at your credit score.
Since late 2013, a handful of credit card issuers have made credit scores a complimentary (as in free!) part of cardholders’ monthly statements or the issuers’ secure websites, and several more issuers have announced the rollout of similar programs later this year.
The credit bureaus are also stepping in with some credit score deals for a very low price, but not all the scores are the same and for some, if you’re not careful, buying into a cheap credit score deal could actually cost you more in the long run.
These are the credit scores the major credit bureaus currently offer consumers:
At the end of 2014, Experian announced consumers could begin ordering a credit report and an official FICO score for just $1.
However, ordering the $1 package will also enroll you in a seven-day trial of Experian Credit Tracker, a daily credit monitoring service. If you don’t cancel the trial membership before it ends, you will be billed $21.95 for each month you are enrolled thereafter.
If you want just the Experian credit report and FICO score, you can pay a one-time fee of $19.95, no trial services included.
To get the best deal here, take advantage of the $1 report and score offer, but be sure to cancel the trial membership before the seven-day period expires to avoid being charged the $21.95 each month.
TransUnion offers a deal similar to Experian’s — a $1 credit report and score package coupled with a 7-day credit monitoring service trial — but the score TransUnion offers isn’t an official FICO score. Your $1 order will instead get you the TransUnion VantageScore, which is a good representation of your creditworthiness, but isn’t used by as many lenders.
And again, if you don’t cancel your free credit monitoring service before the trial week is up, you’ll be charged even more — $17.95 a month, to be exact. A slightly better deal than Experian, but still not $1 — or free — and you don’t get an actual FICO score.
Equifax does things a little differently. It offers a few credit score products to consumers, but none for $1, let alone free.
For $15.95, you can get a credit report and Equifax Credit Score (a bureau-specific credit score model) package and $39.95 will give you a copy of your credit reports from each credit bureau along with the Equifax score.
However, if you want to see a FICO-based credit score, you’ll have to sign up for an Equifax monthly credit monitoring service, which costs $14.95 per month or $19.95 for one month of service.
Even visiting the FICO’s score-based website myfico.com will cost you at least $19.95 to see your current FICO score and a credit report.
So what’s the best option?
It’s hard to say. All three of the credit bureaus offer consumers more than just a credit score number. If you are fighting a case of identity theft or just worried about your financial well-being in general, you could benefit by paying a little extra for a credit monitoring service along with your score through one of the aforementioned deals.
However, you can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three bureaus every year at annualcreditreport.com. And if you just want a look at your FICO score, these days you may be better off going elsewhere.
As more credit card issuers jump on the free credit score bandwagon, check your monthly statements and online accounts first to see if you are already being given regular glances at your credit health for free.
Paying a little bit of money to make sure your credit is in good health can be a wise investment, but why spend money when you don’t have to?