For many years, the credit industry treated consumer credit scores like a secret handshake between members of an exclusive cult. In fact, your credit score was such a secret that you could not even get it yourself!
History of Credit Scores
Hard as it may be to believe, consumers were not allowed to access their own credit scores due to contractual agreements between the bureaus and the lenders; the credit bureaus could reveal your credit score to a lender to summarize your creditworthiness, but lenders were only allowed to show you your own score if your credit was denied.
This changed in the last few years, largely because of a 2001 advance in California mortgage lending law which required mortgage lenders and credit bureaus to make credit information widely available to borrowers. Because of this law, mortgage lenders in California must provide scores to borrowers for free. Credit bureaus, under this law, are permitted to charge a reasonable fee to any Californian that asks for their credit score. In complying with this law, credit bureaus decided to widen the availability of credit scores to consumers nationwide, and now they have services to provide your score to you, on demand, for a nominal fee.
Checking Your Credit Score
If you want to check your score more frequently, you can subscribe to a service that allows you to monitor your credit files and access your scores online at any time. Credit monitoring services may be a good idea because you actually have three credit scores at the three different consumer credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax and Transunion.
Also with recent changes in the law you are entitled to one free credit report annually from each of the major credit bureaus. This is a copy of your entire credit report with all of the information reported to the credit bureaus, this does not include your three digit credit score though.
Whether you decide to do a one-time check of a single credit score, or purchase a year’s subscription to monitor your changes in credit data at all three bureaus, or one bureau, depends upon your needs and budget. But in either case, for a reasonable fee you can look up your score online.