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Free credit reports should come with free, reliable credit scores

New bill in Congress would help you get your all-important scores to better manage your money

Published: April 2013

Your credit report is an essential part of your financial life. It can help you track your finances, spot mistakes that could cost you money, and make sure that no one has stolen your identity to run up charges in your name.

The law says you can get a free credit report once a year from each of the major credit-reporting companies—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. That’s a good thing, and you should take advantage of it by checking your reports every year by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.

Despite all of the information in your credit report, one very important number is missing: your three-digit credit score. Scores provided by Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion can determine the interest rate you pay on loans and credit cards, how big a deposit you have to put down on an apartment, and how much you are charged for car insurance.

But unlike with your credit report, you typically can’t get your credit scores for free. You usually have to buy them, or sign up for a “trial offer” that might come with hidden costs. Worse, the credit scores you buy may be significantly different from the ones used by creditors to make decisions about you, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

At Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, we think you should be able to see your credit scores—the same ones that creditors use—without the expenses and uncertainty that exist today.

A bill in Congress would go a long way toward fixing those problems. The Free Access to Credit Scores Act would require the credit-reporting companies to give you reliable credit scores with your credit report. The bill spells out that you must get the scores that are actually used by lenders, not some dubious “informational” score.

The bill would also let you see all the credit scores that have been generated in the last year and stored in your credit files, and it would crack down on deceptive marketing of “free” or low-cost reports and scores.

We strongly endorse this bill. We hope you’ll ask Congress to support it, too. Send a message to your lawmakers.

This feature is part of a regular series by Consumers Union, the public-policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports. The nonprofit organization advocates for product safety, financial reform, safer food, health reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.


Read other installments of our Policy & Action feature.


   

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