Millions Eligible for Free Credit Scores

November 6, 2013
Free Credit Score

The all important credit score, the number that determines your creditworthiness and is used to help determine how much of a loan you can get and how high your interest rates will be, used to be something you paid for. Now millions of credit card customers will be able to get their scores for free, thanks to new partnerships with FICO, one of the credit scoring bureaus.

FICO has created a program called FICO Score Open Access that gives cardholders access to the same FICO scores that banks use to measure risk. Consumers will be able to have access to their credit score and educational materials that explain credit scoring and the consumer behaviors that affect the overall number.

"Consumers today are confused by the various credit scores available for purchase," said James Wehmann, executive vice president of Scores at FICO, in a statement. "This new program provides individuals with the specific FICO Score used by lenders to make credit decisions regarding an individual customer. In 2012 approximately 10 billion FICO Scores were bought by lenders for risk management purposes and we are prepared to allow all of them to be shared with bank customers without any additional score fee charged by FICO to lenders."

Barclaycard US and First Bankcard are the first financial institutions to sign up for this service, and their credit card customers will now have access to their FICO credit scores.

"Research shows that the majority of consumers don't know or understand their credit scores and the role the score plays in determining their eligibility for a credit card, as well as their card limit and interest rate," said Stephen F. Eulie, president of First Bankcard, in a statement. "In keeping with our long history of innovation and doing what's right for our customers, we saw an important opportunity to partner with FICO to educate our credit card customers about credit scores and let them know that there are simple steps they can take to improve their financial health."

First Bankcard plans to stagger its rollout of the program to its cardholders, with the first release going to those customers with "First Bank of Omaha" branded credit cards. In the first quarter of 2014, the rollout will continue with First Bankcard's co-branded cards, including Union Bank, N.A.; Overstock.com, Inc.; Scheels All Sports, Inc.; and Sheetz, Inc.

"Barclaycard is pleased to be [able] to offer bona fide FICO Scores as a complimentary benefit to our cardmembers through FICO Score Open Access," said Paul Wilmore, managing director consumer markets at Barclaycard US, in a statement. "The program aligns perfectly with our overall business philosophy of being fair and transparent with our cardmembers, giving them easy access to important financial information that will help make their financial lives easier."

Barclaycard will also do a staggered rollout of the service to its customers. Barclaycard Ring, Barclaycard Arrival, Barclaycard Rewards, Juniper, Frontier and Carnival cardholders will be the first to be able to opt into the service. Barclaycard will continue to roll out the service to other cardholders early next year.

"Consumers want a better understanding of their credit score and how it could impact their access to credit and the interest rate they're offered," said CEB TowerGroup senior research director Craig Focardi in a statement. "Financial institutions that provide a free credit score are helping their customers understand their options and make smarter credit decisions. Knowledge is power and a knowledgeable consumer might be a lower risk consumer."

FICO makes its FICO Score Open Access program accessible to all American financial service providers that use FICO scores.

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