For years it’s been possible to access a free copy of your credit report each year. And that’s wonderful. You can see all of the different inquiries, all of the different accounts, and anything that may be good or bad about your credit. All by visiting http://www.annualcreditreport.com. But the missing piece of the puzzle has been the credit score—the number that most credit providers use to determine how much you have to pay to use their money…if they’ll let you use their money at all. That score we’ve always had to pay for. Until recently.
It all started with Discover. It was about a year ago that Discover started providing their customers with a free credit score. I was very hopeful at that point that other credit providers would follow suit. And it has happened. This week I got an email from Citibank telling me that I now have access to my credit score for free if I log into my account there (I am a customer there…this isn’t something they’re offering to everyone). I logged in and was pleased to find a score that made me happy. And Citibank isn’t alone. Others are following suit. Chase and Bank of America have announced that they too will be offering free credit scores to some of their customers. Even student loan lender Sallie Mae has jumped on board, offering free scores to their private student loan customers.
Is a free credit score a good enough reason to choose one bank, credit card, or student loan over another? Absolutely not! But it sure is a nice perk if a money lender you work with is offering this to you for free.
Why is it important to know your credit score? Because others are looking at your credit score. If you apply for a credit card, they look at your credit score. If you apply for a private student loan, they look at your credit score. If you put in an application on a new apartment, they look at your credit score. If you have car insurance, they look at your credit score. If you sign up for a utility (for example, connecting the electric in your apartment), they look at your credit score. It seems like everyone is looking at your credit score. And if everyone else knows what your score is, shouldn’t you? Luckily it’s now a lot easier to find out what it is!