Individuals have three separate credit reports, one provided by each major credit bureau (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion).
Private companies use algorithms (called credit scoring models) to analyze each credit report and generate a credit score. As a result of this process, individuals have multiple credit scores.
Each credit scoring model (FICO, VantageScore, etc.) will produce one credit score for each credit report. If each credit report displays similar information (which is usually the case), each credit score should be comparable. Any observed differences can be attributed to the unique algorithm used by each scoring model, where individual credit factors are weighted differently.
For example, one of these credit factors is new credit, which includes the number of newly opened accounts and hard credit inquiries. In many situations, credit inquiries are unevenly distributed. For example, here in Texas, most financial institutions (Citi, Chase, Amex) pull Experian when I apply for a credit card. Barclays pulls TransUnion, Discover pulls Equifax, and U.S. Bank pulls either Experian or Equifax.
As a result, my Experian credit report shows more hard credit inquiries than TransUnion or Equifax, which results in a slightly lower Experian credit score.
The remainder of this article will explain how to check your credit scores for free, including how to check your FICO score and VantageScore at each credit bureau.
How to Check Your FICO Credit Score for Free
FICO has been the leading credit scoring model for decades. The official myFICO website says that 90% of all lending decisions are made using official FICO credit scores.
The vast majority of options listed below will include your credit score and a summary of your credit report. The summary will include positive information and areas for potential improvement. Personally, I enjoy seeing how the information in my credit report affects my credit score.
How to Check Your TransUnion FICO Score
There are no reputable websites providing TransUnion FICO scores free of charge, but several credit cards issuers provide this information to cardholders. If you hold one of the credit cards listed below, your official TransUnion FICO score is shown within your online account or printed on your monthly statement.
- All Discover credit cards (including our favorite Discover It with no annual fee)
- All Bank of America credit cards
- All Barclay credit cards
How to Check Your Experian FICO Score
Discover’s new Credit Scorecard initiative will provide your official Experian FICO score, completely free of charge. Anyone can use the free service, which is updated monthly.
Experian, the official credit bureau, gives away the exact same information through freecreditscore.com. Just be aware that Experian often recommends paid products through the free credit score offering.
You can also access your official Experian FICO score by holding one of the credit cards listed below.
- All American Express credit cards
- Chase Slate (no other Chase cards)
How to Check Your Equifax FICO Score
Citi personal credit card holders can access their Equifax FICO score through Citi’s online account management system. Business credit cards do not qualify.
HSBC credit card holders also receive a free Equifax FICO score.
How to Check Your Vantage Credit Score for Free
The three major credit bureaus created the VantageScore model as a potential replacement for the industry standard FICO score. To date, progress has been limited. The VantageScore model is used in about 10% of lending decisions while the FICO scoring model is used roughly 90% of the time.
Still, it can be helpful to compare your VantageScore with your FICO score to observe how the scoring algorithms differ. The free websites listed below will provide your VantageScore and credit report summary.
How to Check Your TransUnion VantageScore
CreditCards.com provides your complete TransUnion credit report and VantageScore in one secure online interface.
Credit Sesame is one of the oldest free credit score providers and a service that I have personally used for many years without issue.
Capital One’s CreditWise provides your TransUnion credit report and VantageScore. No credit card is required.
How to Check Your Experian VantageScore
Credit.com is the only company that I’ve found offering a free Experian VantageScore.
To evaluate the different credit scoring models, you might consider comparing this Experian VantageScore with your Experian FICO score mentioned in the previous section.
How to Check Your Equifax VantageScore
Credit Karma is the best free option, providing your TransUnion and Equifax VantageScore in the same online dashboard.
I haven’t found any other reputable companies that provide an Equifax VantageScore free of charge.
Other Ways to Check Your Credit Score for Free
There are a number of regional financial institutions that provide a free FICO or VantageScore. There is nothing wrong with regional offerings, but the Cash Cow audience is scattered throughout the country (and the world).
To keep things clear and concise, I chose to include only nationwide institutions that provide a free credit score.
If I missed anything, please let me know with a comment.