(Scroll down to find list of credit cards that provide free credit score every month)
Everyone is looking to get access to their credit scores. Yes, there are companies offering free credit scores, and those offers look very attractive. The problem is that the scores that you’re getting aren’t the real deal. Instead, they are offering what are known as “FAKO scores”, which is a clever blending of the words “FICO” and “fake”. The reason that they are referred to as FAKO scores is because that’s what they really are.
But if you want real credit scores, you can get them through select credit cards that give free credit scores monthly. You probably already have one or more credit cards, and if you can get one that offers free credit scores, it will be a valuable benefit that you won’t need to pay extra for.
Who Can Benefit From a Free Credit Scores
Virtually everyone can benefit from free credit scores. Given the importance of credit scores, it’s imperative that you monitor your scores continuously. Credit scores will not only affect whether or not you will be approved for a loan, but it will also have a direct effect on the interest rate you will pay on that loan.
It’s also important to understand that credit scores play a part in other important areas of your life. For example, whenever you apply for a new job, it’s almost a certainty that they will run a credit report on you. Employers want to know that you are responsible with your credit, since it can indicate the level of responsibility with which you will carry out your job.
Increasingly, insurance companies are also checking your credit when you apply for life insurance and car insurance. Your credit score can be an indication of your overall level of responsibility. But perhaps closer to the truth, like everyone else, insurance companies want to know that they are going to get paid for the policy that they will provide. Your credit score provides an indication in that direction.
Identity Tax Theft
There’s one other factor that has become critically important in recent years, and that is identity theft. Once a thief has access to your name and some sort of personal identification number, such as your Social Security number or even just a bank or credit card account number, they can take over your entire identity. From there, they can empty your bank account and borrow money in your name. The thief will make off with the money, but you may be on the hook for the loans.
It’s even possible that a thief can use your identity to file a fraudulent income tax return, and collect a bogus tax refund. Identity tax theft is one of the fastest growing types of identity theft, resulting in many billions of dollars in bogus refund claims every year.
The best defense you can have against identity theft is early detection. And the only way to have that is through regular monitoring of your credit situation. Since a significant change in your credit score can indicate unusual credit activity, knowing what your credit score is on a regular basis can help you to know if your identity has been compromised. That will allow you to get involved early in the process, when you will have the ability to limit the damage.
For example, you can contact affected creditors to let them know that there has been unauthorized activity on your loan account. You can also put a freeze on unaffected loan accounts and lines of credit, and alert your bank and any investment companies where you have money saved. That will prevent a thief from doing further damage to your financial situation.
Regular Credit Monitoring Can be Expensive
One of the major reasons why more people don’t regularly monitor their credit is because of cost. In order to track your credit on a regular basis, you will have to subscribe to a credit monitoring service. Those services charge monthly fees, typically ranging between $15 and $30. On an annual basis, that ranges from $180 to $360. Many people would rather save the money, and take their chances that nothing will happen.
In addition, many of the credit monitoring services that are available engage in aggressive up selling. That is, while you are subscribed to the service, they are busy trying to persuade you either to take a higher level of service, or to buy into various services offered by their business partners. It can often seem like a lot of expense for very limited benefit.
Credit Cards that Give Free Credit Scores Monthly to the Rescue
You can get free credit scores, monthly or more frequently, through some credit card providers. Since you will have a credit card anyway, and that particular card is one of the credit lines that you were seeking to protect, adding a free credit score service to your package is easy, convenient and cost free.
Not all credit cards come with free credit scores. The reason is the same as why you can’t get credit scores for free in general – providing credit scores on a regular basis costs money!
Just as you would need to pay a credit monitoring service a monthly fee to have regular access to your credit scores, banks providing credit scores pay outside providers to bring you that service. For that reason, they may offer credit scores only with select credit cards, or not offer them at all.
Finding the banks that provide free credit scores monthly is a bit of a research project. You can search 10 banks before coming across one that will provide the scores free of charge.
What Type of Scores Do They Provide?
One of the factors that’s important to understand when it comes to credit scores is that there is no one single credit score.
The FICO score is considered the “gold standard” of credit scores, but there are various other credit scores that are used by lenders to evaluate your credit. In fact, even your FICO score isn’t a single score. Since there are three credit bureaus – Equifax, TransUnion and Experian – each issues a credit score based on its own credit report.
Since not all creditors report to each of the three credit bureaus, the information contained on the three credit reports can vary significantly. In addition, there may be timing factors. A bank may report to Equifax on the 5th of the month, and Experian on the 10th. If your credit score is pulled on the 8th of the month, the scores between the two bureaus will be at least a little bit different.
Different FICO Score Versions for Different Lenders
Beyond the FICO scores calculated by the three credit bureaus, there are several different versions of the FICO score itself. In fact, each area of lending uses a different version of your FICO score.
Here’s the breakdown by lending type:
- Most widely used FICO score is FICO Score 8
- Mortgage lenders use FICO Scores 2, 4 and 5
- Auto lenders use FICO Auto Score versions 2, 4, 5 and 8
The most common FICO scores used for credit card lending are FICO Bankcard Scores 2, 4, 5 and 8, as well as FICO Score 3. This means that different banks use different versions of your FICO score in evaluating your credit.
Common Non-FICO Scores
There are also credit scores that are not FICO scores, but are scores that are also issued by the three major credit bureaus. These include:
- Transunion VantageScore 3.0
- Transunion’s CreditView Score Simulator
- Experian Vantage Score
These scores typically are not used for lending purposes. They are frequently referred to as educational scores, and are commonly given out to customers and clients of banks to enable regular credit score monitoring. They are offered because they are less expensive for the banks to obtain than actual FICO scores. Use of educational scores gives a bank the ability to offer free credit scores at very low cost to the bank.
The fact that educational scores are not used for lending purposes doesn’t diminish their value. Since the scores are issued by the three major credit bureaus, based on your actual credit report with each bureau, they closely track your FICO score.
That enables you to maintain an ongoing approximation of what your actual FICO score is. And since it functions in the exact same way, it is a valid tool to enable you to monitor your credit, and to know when a significant event, like a potential identity theft, may be occurring.
Tricks and Traps to be Aware of
Though many banks are including free credit scores with their credit card offers, you must be aware of potential complications.
Don’t take a Credit Card just to get a Free Credit Score
A free credit score is an outstanding benefit, no question about it. But you don’t want to take a credit card simply because it provides regular credit scores. The interest rate and fees that you will pay for the credit card still matter.
For example, if you regularly carry a credit card balance $5,000, and you have a choice between a credit card that has a 20% interest rate, but offers free credit scores, compared to a credit card with a 13% rate, but no free credit scores, you will be better off taking the lower rate card.
Why? The extra 7% that you are paying each year for the card that offers free credit scores translates to an extra $350 per year in interest ($5,000 X 7%). Since you can probably get a paid credit monitoring service for around $15 per month, or $180 per year, you will save $170 ($350 – $180) taking the lower rate card, and paying for a separate credit monitoring service.
Any benefit that you get from any credit card always has to be measured against the overall price you are paying for the complete service package.
Not all Lenders Offer Free Credit Scores on All Credit Cards
Some banks provide free credit scores on all of their credit cards, while some provide it only for select cards – usually premium cards. Never assume that because a bank provides credit scores on one card that they do so across-the-board. Always read the fine print, and send an email requesting confirmation if it’s not clear.
But some Lenders do Offer Free Credit Scores Across-the-Board
Based on our research, many banks do provide credit scores, not only for all of their credit cards, but for all of their bank products.
It’s also important to realize that access to your credit scores is generally contingent on your maintaining your account in good standing. A pattern of late payments, or a past due balance could result in the suspension of various bank services, including your credit scores.
How to Get the Best Benefit from Credit Cards that Give Free Credit Scores
If a credit card will provide you with regular credit score updates, the best benefit will come from taking full advantage of the service. That means that you need to stay on top of your credit score, and be prepared to act on significant changes.
Pay your credit accounts on time. Having access to your credit score should never mean that you become lax about paying your bills on time. Since you are monitoring your credit score on a regular basis, you should become more conscientious than ever about paying your bills on time.
Having access to your credit score should actually help you to do this. You will quickly notice the negative effect that late payments will have on your score. For example, a single late payment could drop your score by 30 or 40 points. You will also notice that it will take many months to minimize the impact of a single late payment. That should help you to appreciate why it’s so important to pay your bills on time.
Check your updated credit score regularly. Having access to your credit score isn’t a service that you should obtain and then forget about. It will only be a benefit to you if you regularly pay attention to. Since your credit score is likely to change at least monthly, then you should be prepared to check it at a regular time each month.
Be prepared to investigate major changes in your credit score. A rising credit score is cause for celebration. But a declining score is reason for concern. You don’t want to do a deep investigation every time that your score falls a few points. But if it falls by more than 20 or 30 points in one month, then you need to do some investigating.
A drop in your score that high can indicate one of the following:
- You made a late payment
- You didn’t make a late payment, but a lender entered one anyway
- An account went past due, or was put into collection
- A series of inquiries appeared on your credit report, indicating the search for one or more loans
- A large new credit line was opened
- Other credit entries that you may not be aware of
Other than the first item, where you made a late payment and you know that you did, every other reason on this list needs to be investigated. Either information is being reported in error, or it’s possible that an unintended third-party is applying for credit in your name. That would be an indication of identity theft.
If any of these situations becomes apparent, you will need to take action immediately. In most cases, your credit score will be reported with what are known as reason codes. As the name implies, they will tell you the reasons why your credit score has declined.
Once you know what those are, you’ll need to get a copy of your credit report, to determine the specific source of the trouble. If you determine that the entry indicates either an error or unauthorized use of your credit, you will need to contact the credit bureaus, as well as any lenders or financial situations that you do business with, and put a stop to the activity, or correct the error.
Be sure to order a copy of all three credit reports every year. Your credit score is just a numeric representation that summarizes your actual credit history and standing. But at least once each year, you should get a copy of the credit reports issued by each of the three major credit bureaus. This will give you an opportunity to review the actual information that is producing your credit score. That will also provide you with an opportunity to correct any errors that may be showing on your report.
You are legally entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus. You can access them through a dedicated website service, Annual Credit Report.com. In addition, the bank that is providing your free credit score service may also provide you with a copy of your credit report on an annual basis.
Other Features of Credit Card with Free Credit Scores
Some banks do offer a variety of service levels with their credit score offers. Examples include:
Credit Alerts. Some banks provide credit alerts letting you know when your score has changed significantly, as well as the reasons for the change. With some cards this service is part of the free package, but with others it’s offered as a premium service.
Credit Simulators. A few banks offer this tool as a way to predict future credit score performance. For example, you can run simulations in which you keep your credit clean for one year, or measure how a debt consolidation loan might improve your score. Once again, the possibility is that this service will be offered as a premium service.
Reporting Method. Your free credit score will come to you in different ways. For example, some banks may provide it on your monthly credit card statements. Others will provide it via email, or enable you to access it on a smartphone. Still others may make available on a dedicated page in their overall online banking platform, where you can access it whenever you like. Still others will offer a combination, and ask you which method you prefer.
Opt-out. Banks will offer you an opportunity to opt out of receiving your credit score if you so choose. That would largely defeat the purpose of choosing a credit card with free credit scores in the first place, but it’s a good option to have in the event that you decide against the service at a future date.
Finally, be aware that the existence of these additional services, like the free credit scores themselves, are subject to change. The banks may add or subtract various services, or even remove the free credit score package completely.
List of Cards that Give Free Credit Scores on Monthly Basis
The table below provides a list of banks/card issuers that offer credit cards that give free credit scores at least monthly. There is also a link for each bank that will bring you either to the webpage that provides the details of the free credit score feature, or directly to a page for a credit card that specifically provides them. We’ve also provided the type of credit score each bank provides, the frequency with which the score is updated and the credit eligibility to be approved for the card.
Please note that these banks/card issuers typically provide between two and 12 credit cards each, and the availability may depend on the specific card offer that you sign up for. Some banks/card issuers however, do provide credit scores on all of their credit card offers.
Credit Cards Offering Free Credit Scores
|BANK/FEATURE||Credit Score Provided||Interest Rate||Rewards||Intro Offer||Annual Fee||Credit Eligibility||Credit Score Update Frequency|
|Capital One Venture Rewards||TransUnion VantageScore 3.0||13.49% - 23.49% APR||Unlimited 2X miles per dollar on every purchase||No balance transfer fee||$0 intro annual fee for the first year, $59 after that||Excellent Credit||Weekly|
|Citi Simplicity Card||Equifax FICO Bankcard Score 8||13.99% - 23.99% APR||N/A||0% Intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 21 months||No Annual Fee||Excellent Credit||Monthly|
|Discover it||Experian FICO||11.49% to 23.49% APR||5% cash back in rotating categories each quarter; unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases||0% Intro APR for 14 months on purchases and balance transfers||No Annual Fee||Excellent Credit||Monthly|
|SunTrust Cash Back Rewards||Equifax FICO Bankcard Score 8||10.74% – 21.74% APR||1% to 5% cash back||0.0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months||No Annual Fee||Excellent Credit||Monthly|
|US Bank Visa Platinum Card||Transunion’s CreditView Score Simulator||10.49% - 22.49% APR||N/A||0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 billing cycles; Balance transfer fee: 3% of the amount of each transfer or $5 minimum, whichever is greater||No Annual Fee||Excellent Credit||Monthly|
|TD Bank Cash Credit Card||Transunion Vantage Score||13.49% - 23.49% APR||2% cash back on dining purchases ;1% cash back on all other purchases||0% introductory APR|
for first 12 billing cycles; Balance transfer fee $10 or 4% of transfer
whichever amount is greater
|No Annual Fee||Excellent Credit||Monthly|
|Commerce Bank Special Connections Visa with Rewards||FICO® Bankcard Score 8||10.74% - 20.74% APR||1 - 3% Cash Back||0% Intro APR for 6 monthly billing cycles||No Annual Fee||Excellent Credit||Monthly|
|Digital Credit Union (DCU) Visa Platinum Rewards||Equifax FICO Score 8||11.75% - 18.00% APR||Earn 1 reward point for every $1 spent||N/A but No balance transfer fee||No Annual Fee||Good to Excellent Credit||Monthly|
|Chase Slate Visa||Transunion VantageScore 3.0||15.49% – 24.24% APR||N/A||0% intro APR for 15 months; balance transfer fee waived first 60 days||No Annual Fee||Excellent Credit||Weekly|
|Wells Fargo Cash Wise Visa||FICO||13.49% to 25.49% APR||Unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on net purchases||0.00% introductory APR for 12 months for purchases and balance transfers||No Annual Fee||Excellent Credit|
|Bank of America BankAmericard Cash Rewards||TransUnion FICO ||13.49% to 23.49% APR||1% - 3% cash back||0% APR for first 12 billing cycles for purchases, and balance transfers made within 60 days||No Annual Fee||Excellent Credit||Monthly|
|First Bankcard Complete Rewards Visa||FICO Bankcard Score 8||16.49% - 23.49% APR||1% cash back on purchases||0% introductory APR for the first 15 billing cycles on purchases||No Annual Fee||Excellent Credit||Monthly|
|Barclaycard Ring Master Card||Transunion FICO ||13.49% variable APR||N/A||0% introductory APR for the first 15 months on purchases; no balance transfer fees, but 13.49% APR||No Annual Fee||Excellent Credit||Monthly|
|Citizens Bank Cash Back Plus World Mastercard||FICO||14.99% - 22.99% APR||1.5% - 1.8%||0% introductory APR on balance transfers for 15 billing cycles||No Annual Fee||Excellent Credit|