The federal government gives us the right to a free credit report once a year which gives us the opportunity to make sure our credit reports are accurate, but there's no government mandate for annual free FICO scores - the credit score lenders most often use to approve credit applications. Reviewing your credit score in addition to your credit report will give you a better idea of where your credit stands.
You may be able to receive a free FICO score by signing up for another subscription service, but that isn't always a good option. You might also get a free FICO score if you're denied a product or service or if you receive less favorable terms because of your FICO score. Instead, if you want to get a feel for where your credit stands, you can use a FICO score estimator.
Using a FICO Score Estimator Tool
FICO score estimators ask you a series of multiple-choice questions about your credit history and use that information to provide a range that your FICO score should fall into. The questions are based on the categories of information that are used to calculate your FICO score—payment history, level of debt, the age of credit history, the mix of credit, and recent credit applications. A few of the questions include:
- "How many credit cards do you have?"
- "When did you last miss a loan or credit card payment?"
- "What percent of your total credit card limits do your credit card balances represent?"
Based on your answers to the questions, there may be follow up questions. For example, if you answer that you've ever missed a payment, the FICO score estimator follows up with "What is the most delinquent you have ever been on a loan or credit card?"
What You Need to Know
Getting a good estimate of your FICO score means knowing your credit history. You'll need to know how many open credit cards you have, the balances on those cards, how many recent credit applications you've made, the total amount of your loan balances, etc.
Since many people have such extensive credit history that's too hard to remember, it's a good idea to have your credit report handy when you go through the FICO score estimator. That way you can give the most accurate answers to the questions.
If you haven't checked your credit report recently, you can get a free copy of all three credit reports through AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also see a free credit report from TransUnion and Equifax at CreditKarma.com. Beware of any site that asks for your credit card number to check your free credit report.
At the end of the questionnaire, the FICO score estimator gives you a range where your FICO score would fall based on your answers to the questions. Of course, the estimator isn't foolproof. Your real FICO score could fall outside the range, either above it or below it. You can always order a true FICO score from myFICO.com. If you just want to have a general idea of your score, an estimator is a quick, easy, and free way to get it.
Three Sites With Estimators
There are a few websites offering FICO score estimators and, since they're all powered by myFICO.com, they ask the same questions and provided you give the same answers, you'd receive the same FICO score estimate for each. The one you choose is a matter of preference: