#free credit history
By Fred O. Williams
There’s less and less reason to be unaware of your credit score — and more evidence that you should keep tabs on it.
FICO, author of the most widely used score, announced Oct. 20, 2015, that 100 million consumer accounts now have regular, free access to their FICO scores.
Since FICO launched the open-access program in 2013, many banks — including most major credit card issuers — have begun sharing credit scores with customers, either on their monthly statement or online. (See list of cards that offer free credit scores .)
The scores available include measures designed by credit bureaus as well as the FICO score, the one used in most lending decisions.
People who become familiar with the three-digit measure of their creditworthiness seem to handle money better, a study by Federal Reserve economists suggests. Consumers with relatively low scores who gained access to their FICO score at a major card issuer, and who checked it regularly, tended to reduce their reliance on credit. the research found.
The more consumers know about their own credit health, the better it is for everyone, FICO Executive Vice President Jim Wehmann said in a news release.
The trend toward free scores got a push in January 2015, when President Obama announced that Chase and Bank of America had joined the list of card issuers providing free scores to cardholders via monthly statements or on their websites. In August, American Express announced cardholders of both charge cards and credit cards could access their FICO scores on the company website.
Financial savvy plus fraud detection
In addition to helping people understand their financial picture, regular access to credit scores can help fight fraud. Changes in your score may alert you when new accounts are opened in your name, or when new applications for credit are filed. More than 100 million Americans have had their personal data compromised in recent cybersecurity breaches, Obama said.
FICO is the owner of the formula used to generate the most widely used credit score. The three-digit number between 300 and 850 is used by lenders to screen applicants for mortgages, car loans and credit cards. Increasingly, credit scores are also used by landlords, utilities and insurance companies to check out potential customers.
Under FICO’s Open Access program announced in November 2013, banks that purchase FICO scores to keep tabs on customers’ credit profiles can share the scores with customers — plus related information about their credit — at no charge. In April 2014, the credit bureau Experian announced a similar program letting banks share the VantageScore credit score with consumers, plus related information on factors that influence an individual’s score.
The CFPB got behind the push for free scores in February 2014, urging major credit card issuers to provide free credit scores and related information to their customers. Many people remain confused about credit reports and scores, what they mean, and what steps they can take to improve their credit profile, the CFPB said. Although consumers are entitled by law to one free copy of their credit report annually from each of the three largest credit bureaus, 90 percent of eligible consumers fail to obtain even one free report, the agency said in a research paper.
Here is a rundown of major credit card issuers and the status for their plans to provide free credit scores for customers. This list will be updated as more information becomes available.
CREDIT SCORES: CARDS THAT OFFER THEM FREE