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It used to be that you had to pay to see your credit score and that credit scores were kept a "secret" so you'd never know what it was when you went to apply for a loan. However, now, almost every bank is offering people their credit scores for free (even if you aren't a customer of that bank). Why are banks all of a sudden providing people their credit scores for free?

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I think the biggest reason is price; it's a lot cheaper now than it was to offer these. That's because for the most part, when you get a credit score for free, you're not getting a true FICO score. You're getting instead a VantageScore.

VantageScore was created by the three credit bureaus, and as such they can offer it without paying Fair Isaac a licensing fee. That makes it a lot cheaper to offer, and while it's not absolutely identical to FICO (or more accurately to any of the FICO provided scores) it's close enough for most peoples' purpose.

And of course undoubtedly Fair Isaac has some price pressure on their side now that Vantage is big enough that many people see them as fungible. As such they've had to make it easier, or they'd lose business - no longer being a monopolist.


The other relevant piece here is that probably in many of these cases they're really just offering you what Experian would give you directly - so it's just a cross-marketing thing (where Experian, or perhaps another bureau, gets access to you as a customer so they can up-sell you ID theft insurance and whatnot, while the bank gets to offer the free score).

  • I'm pretty sure most of my banks provide a FICO score, not Vantage. – TTT May 18 '17 at 18:03
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    @TTT Discover is apparently FICO, but all of the others I have are Vantage. Many are very loose with the terminology I've noticed. – Joe May 18 '17 at 18:27
  • I have a bunch and the ability to confirm if they are correct. I'll report back when I get a chance. – TTT May 18 '17 at 18:34
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    Based on the banks I use: Amex - FICO Ex, BofA - FICO Tr, Capital One Not FICO, Chase - FICO Ex, Citi - FICO Eq, USBank - FICO Ex. I don't know the exact scoring model each uses, but at first glance it appears the numbers being provided are accurate. (Seems like FICO 8 mostly.) – TTT May 18 '17 at 18:52
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    @TTT To add to that list, Discover cardmember score is TU FICO 08 and has another website that offers EX FICO 8 for free for everyone. – xiaomy May 18 '17 at 19:18
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Why are banks all of a sudden providing people their credit scores for free?

Because it is a really good idea.

On an ABC Bank website, it has: "Check your credit score for free" button. You click it. Not only will it come up with a credit score, but it could also trigger a marketing workflow. If it is direct mail, email, or a phone call a banker could contact you for help with a debt product. This marketing could also be targeted, say a person with a high score could be targeted for a mortgage. A person with a low or medium score could be targeted for ways and products to improve their score.

Now if you run XYZ bank and not do the same, you are losing a competitive advantage to banks that offer this. Not only will your customers be less happy, but you will lose a great marketing opportunities.

Face it, the only people that worry about their credit score are people that are in the market to borrow. Which again, is more information. If you have someone that never checks their credit score, or has their credit frozen, then it is wise not to market to them debt products.

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Two possible reasons:

  1. The banks are already soft pulling your credit every month to see what sort of pre-approved offers they want to present you. Since they already have the information they are providing it to you as an additional feature.
  2. The bank wants to know your credit score, and waits for you to initiate by viewing your credit score through their website. As soon as you initiate it, they make the soft pull and now they have the information also.

You can tell which scenario it is based on the credit history they provide you. If you look at the history and they show you your scores for each month, even though you didn't initiate it, then they are auto checking it each month. If the historical dates are only on the dates you clicked on the button, they are only checking when you manually click on it.

As for the why they provide it, a few years back it was a desirable feature. Now they all do it just to keep pace with everyone else. Note that most banks only provide a single scoring model from one bureau (but different banks use different bureaus).

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It's the inevitable result of the Fair, Isaac Company deciding to sell access to credit scores to the general public: some marketing dude at one of the banks thought, "Wouldn't it be a great idea if we could use 'free' access to FICO scores as a differentiator for our CCs?"

And, because most humans play follow the leader, soon enough, other banks were paying FICO a license to present FICO scores to their card holders.

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An alternative take on the "why" is that most people's credit is better than they think, and all of these banks offer credit products. Put a "good credit" badge next to an ad for a shiny new card or auto refi, and it's just good business.

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