Credit Card Issuers Increasingly Offering Customers Their Credit Scores
The law requires that consumers receive a free copy of their credit report every year, but that is not the same thing as a credit score. Consumer credit bureaus produce credit scores so that businesses can determine someone's credit worthiness from a simple number, rather than the analysis of pages of credit history. Likewise, many consumers simply want to know what their credit score is on regular basis, rather than go through their entire credit report once a year.
Thankfully, many credit card issuers are now stepping up to offer consumers their credit score on their statements every month. Citi just announced that it will begin offering free credit scores to cardholders, starting in January. These scores will be generated by the FICO formula using data from their Equifax credit reports.
Previously, several other card issuers were offering a credit report. For example, Discover and Barclaycard are both offering cardholders their FICO score based on their TransUnion credit history. In addition, Capital One offers a credit score based on TransUnion credit history and a proprietary TransUnion scoring formula. Their Credit Tracking application also allows cardholders to receive credit alerts and simulate changes to their credit score based on various actions such as paying off cards or increasing their balance. Other card issuers offering scores include Sallie Mae and the Pentagon Federal Credit Union (PenFed).
There are several reasons why card issuers are doing this. First, their customers want this information, which is an important factor in this highly competitive industry. There is a lot of uncertainty among consumers when it comes to how their actions affect their credit scores. In addition, it is also in card issuer's best interest for their customers to care about their credit score. For obvious reasons, cardholders who are striving to maintain a high credit score will keep their debt low and pay their bills on time.
In addition, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has called on credit card issuers to make credit scores freely available to their customers. “Credit reports and scores can determine the terms of people’s mortgages, whether they qualify for auto loans, or if they are eligible for different credit cards,” according to a February 2014 statement from CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Making consumers’ credit scores freely available on their monthly statement or online makes it easier for them to spot problems with their credit report."
Another way to for consumers to get some idea of their credit scores is through web sites such as Credit Karma and Credit.com. While these sites use data from one of the three major consumer credit bureaus, they do not use the FICO scoring model, which is considered to be the most authoritative.
Since the great recession and credit crunch that began in 2008, consumers now have a heightened awareness of their credit scores and how they are affected by them. As more card issuers continue to provide free credit scores to their customers, consumers will be better able to track their credit more reliably, while make the right decisions for their personal finances.