Hansen of Elk River, Minn., requested her credit report
after the Target breach, but the 24-year-old found the
report frustrating and incomplete.
one had told her how to read it, and no credit score was
included. "I was taught how to balance a checkbook
in school," she said, "but why didnít they
tell me how to read a credit report or interpret a
Hansen and other consumers who get a credit report are
discovering is that it doesnít include a credit score,
the all-important piece of financial information that is
used by banks, mortgage companies and landlords to
assess the credit risk of applicants. While itís a
powerful enough number to cause consumers to be turned
down for a loan, they have had to pay for the privilege
of seeing it.
credit score typically ranges from 280 to 990 depending
on the provider. FICO, for example, ranges from 280 to
850, while VantageScore Solutions, a joint venture of
Experian, TransUnion and Equifax, ranges from 500 to
990. Recently, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
urged credit card companies to start offering free
credit scores to their customers.
a few are doing so, including Discover, Barclaycard of
Barclays, and First Bankcard of First National Bank of
Omaha. Discover cardholders, for example, now receive an
updated FICO credit score on each monthly statement.
response from Discover card members has been
overwhelmingly positive," said Julie Loeger, senior
vice president of brand and acquisition at Discover.
Dahlheimer of LSS Financial Counseling in Minneapolis
thinks the expansion of free credit score availability
is good, but heís leery of companies that may offer
them with a catch. "Donít do it if you have to
pay an annual fee or a higher interest rate just to get
the free credit score," he said.
a free FICO score from a credit card is a new
occurrence, but similar scores from competitors such as
Vantage have been offered free for much longer, said
John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at
expects the number of credit card companies or other
financial institutions, such as mortgage companies,
offering free FICO credit scores to expand. Even though
companies offering the free FICO scores are paying
parent company Fair Isaac for the service, they may see
other benefits if customers request cheaper online
statements or a reduction in inactive or closed
senior consumer credit specialist Anthony Sprauve said
that FICO is working with every major credit card
company, banks, mortgage companies and auto lenders to
get them to offer free FICO scores as part of their
about 30 million consumers are getting free FICO score
access, although anyone can pay $20 to see their scores
at MyFico.com. Free scores that are available at sites
such as Credit.com, CreditKarma.com, CreditSesame.com
and Quizzle.com are not from FICO and probably use a
slightly different scoring system.
warns consumers that sites such as FreeCreditScore.com,
FreeCreditReport.com or FreeScore.com find a way to
charge for their service, sometimes up to $30 per month.
debate about which scoring system is best continues.
FICO says that 90 of the 100 largest U.S. financial
institutions use its score to make consumer credit
decisions. Dahlheimer said the FICO is usually the best
one because of its ever-improving calculations, but
Ulzheimer said that FICO is clearly concerned about
Vantageís competition or it wouldnít be offering
free consumer access for the first time.
a good score? While 700 to 720 used to be the benchmark,
Ulzheimer said that with multiple scoring systems,
consumers should strive for a score of 780 or higher.
"If your score is below that, you have some work to
do," he said.
for ultra-vigilant consumers who worry that checking
credit scores regularly will lower the number due to
"too many inquiries," Sprauve said it has no
Minnesotans, Iowans, Dakotans or Wisconsinites donít
have to worry about the credit score anyway. Cities in
those states nabbed all 10 spots in Experianís 2013
survey of the top 10 cities whose residents have the
highest credit scores.