The Fair Credit Reporting Act gave consumers access to free annual credit reports from the three major credit reporting agencies through a centralized source, AnnualCreditReport.com, in 2003. A free credit score has never been a right.
Numerous sites promise "free" scores, but in reality they sign people up for a fee-based credit monitoring product. The score costs nothing only if the consumer cancels the order before the end of the trial period.
Several sites will give you a free credit score or score estimate, such as the FICO Score Estimator at Bankrate.com. Score estimators, which provide a score range, may rely on answers to questions about your credit situation or come from credit report information, while actual scores are computed from credit report data.
None of the free scores and estimates available deliver actual FICO scores, the most commonly used score by lenders. The free scores and estimates do, however, give you an idea of where your credit rating stands.
"At the end of the day, an 'excellent' on one model is 97 percent of the time going to be an 'excellent' on another model," says Ken Lin, CEO of San Francisco-based Credit Karma, a site that provides free TransRisk scores from TransUnion.
Here's a look at several sites that offer free credit scores or estimates: