Unless you pay cash for everything, credit scores play a big role in your life. They affect your ability to obtain rental housing, take out a car loan, buy a house, and more. As a result, millions of Americans check their credit scores each year, to find out where they stand. And most of them pay a price for this insight.
Unfortunately (and perhaps unjustly), companies within the credit reporting industry charge a fee for these three-digit numbers. Which begs the question: How much do credit scores cost in 2014? Here’s an updated look at FICO credit score pricing in 2014, and other developments from around the industry.
Free Scores for Borrowers Who Are Denied Financing
There are certain cases where you might be entitled to a completely free credit score, with no strings attached. For instance, if you are turned down for a loan, or offered less favorable terms as a result of your current credit situation, the lender or creditor is required to give you a free copy of your score. This was mandated by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
If a creditor turns you down for any kind of financing or credit (whether it’s a home loan or a Visa card), they must give you an “Adverse Action” notice detailing the specific reason(s) for the denial.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, “If a credit score was a factor in the decision to deny you or to offer you terms less favorable than most other customers receive, the notice also will include that credit score.”
Call it a consolation prize for loan denial.
2014 Credit Score Costs on MyFICO.com: $19.95 Each
MyFICO.com is the website owned by FICO (formerly the Fair Isaac Corporation), the company that developed the commonly used FICO credit score. In addition to being the developers of this particular product, they also sell it directly to consumers via their website. The current cost is $19.95 per score, according to the MyFICO.com website.
It’s worth mentioning at this point that you actually have three different scores. That’s because there are three companies that create consumer credit reports in the United States. They are Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. You have one FICO score based on each of those reports. Three reporting companies, three separate numbers. And don’t be surprised if they are all slightly different.
MyFICO.com also sells a quarterly monitoring service that they claim will “reveal changes to your credit report that can affect your score.” But you can purchase the scores by themselves, if you choose.
Note: The cost and pricing information above was current as of 2014. For the most current price information available, visit MyFICO.com.
Congressional Bill Would Grant Free Scores to All, Annually
Last year, a bill was introduced in the Senate that could bring free credit scores for everyone. It is formally known as the Fair Access to Credit Scores Act of 2013, or Senate Bill 471. It was introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in March 2013. At the same time, Rep. Steve Chosen (D-TN) introduced a “companion bill” in the House of Representatives.
According to Sanders, credit scores “affects consumers’ ability to finance important purchases like homes and cars … everyone applying for a loan should be able to see the same information that banks rely on to judge whether a consumer is creditworthy.”
If passed, this measure would require scores to be included with the free credit reports that consumers are already entitled to receive once per year.
The bill was endorsed and supported by Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy organization that publishes Consumer Reports magazine. The bill was assigned to congressional committees in both the House and Senate on March 6, 2013. Those committees will consider the bill before possibly sending it on to the House or Senate as a whole.
Of course, there’s a large and powerful financial lobby that stands between the proposal and its passage. The aforementioned credit-reporting companies, for instance, regularly contribute to political campaigns on both sides of the aisle. So there’s a change this bill will die on the vine. At any rate, we are tracking the free credit score initiative and will report on its progress going forward.
Do You Even Need to Check Your Credit?
All of this raises the question: Does the average consumer even need to check his or her credit scores? That depends on how you manage your finances.
Some people go their entire lives without ever seeing their scores. This is particularly true for “low-ownership” consumers — that is, people who typically pay as they go and avoid taking on debt. These consumers follow the European model of rental housing, cash-only purchases, and very little debt accumulation. They have little need for their credit scores, free or otherwise.
But the average American will rely on financing at some point in his or her life, and probably on an ongoing basis. It might be a student loan to pay for college tuition, a mortgage to cover the cost of a home, or just a credit card for occasional purchases. For these people, credit scores become much more important. These three-digit numbers can make or break your chances of getting a loan. They also affect the amount of interest you pay on credit cards and loans. If you fall into this group, and you rely on creditors and lenders from time to time, you’d be wise to keep tabs on your score.