No Free Credit Scores

Companies that advertise "free" credit scores are actually peddling a credit monitoring service for a monthly fee. Here's how you can avoid getting scammed.

Checking your credit report at least once a year is a good idea, say credit counselors. It’s one of the best ways to make sure you’re not a victim of identity theft and you also get a chance to correct any errors on the report. You’re entitled to get one free report a year; getting your credit score gratis is a different story.

Despite those catchy commercials you see on TV, there is no way to get your credit score without paying for it. Companies that advertise “free” credit scores are actually peddling a credit monitoring service for a monthly fee.

Even though your credit report is used to calculate your credit score, you don’t get the score with your free report. Many credit counselors view this policy as absurd, since the vast majority of consumers are more interested in their credit score than their credit history.

Because banks and other lenders base their lending decisions and set interest rates largely on the basis of the borrower’s credit score, it can be a crucial number to know. Your score may be worth paying for, credit experts say, since you can negotiate loans more effectively if you know how lenders see your credit worthiness.

If you decide to your credit score, go to one of the three credit reporting services—Equifax, Transunion, or Experian—or to a trustworthy site like myFICO.com.

Scores from other sites may not be up-to-date. You can also get your credit score at the same time you order your free credit report at annualcreditreport.com. Note: This is the official site for ordering a free credit report. Beware of scammers who try to mimic the site or the URL to trick you into giving up personal information.