Experian, TransUnion and Equifax now offer all U.S. consumers free weekly credit reports through AnnualCreditReport.com.
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Many banks and credit unions provide credit scores to account holders and credit card customers. This is a useful benefit, but to make the most of it, it's important to understand the nature of the score you're seeing, and how it may relate to the scores lenders use to evaluate your creditworthiness.
Which Credit Scores Do Banks Use?
Credit scores provided by banks include the following, all of which are calculated using credit report data sourced from one of the three national credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion or Equifax). The bureau that provided your credit data should be indicated along with the score.
- Generic credit scores: These scores, which many lenders use in lending decisions, include versions of the FICO® Score☉ that assign scores on a scale of 300 to 850; VantageScore® versions 3.0 and 4.0, which also use a scale range of 300 to 850; and VantageScore versions 1.0 or 2.0, which assign scores on a scale of 501 to 990. With all credit scores, higher numbers indicate a greater degree of creditworthiness.
- FICO Bankcard Score: If you receive your credit score from your bank's online credit card dashboard or smartphone app, you may see a FICO Bankcard score, which uses a scale of 250 to 900. The Bankcard score is tailored to predict the likelihood you will pay your credit card bills. Many credit card issuers use this score in decisions about credit applications.
- FICO® Score NG: Some lenders use this version of the FICO® Score, which assigns scores on a range of 150 to 950, in their lending decisions.
While less common than they were a decade ago, certain credit scores may be calculated by a bank or another business (not FICO or VantageScore) that are proprietary or assign a unique scale range. Lenders do not use these scores when making credit decisions, but consumers can use them to track improvements in creditworthiness.
Want to Learn More About Credit?
To learn more about credit reports and scores, check out the Experian Credit Course. This free, interactive course will take you through what you need to know about your credit.
Can I Trust the Score From My Bank?
Yes, you can trust credit scores reported by your financial institution. They will accurately reflect your credit history as it appears on the credit report upon which the score is based. To reiterate, however, the credit score your bank provides for free may not be the same one a lender will use when considering your application for credit.
Note that it can take several weeks for lenders to report changes in your credit status to the credit bureaus. So if, for instance, you pay down a high credit card balance today, it might take a month or so for that to be reflected in your credit reports, and thus in credit scores derived from them.
Should I Check My Credit Score Elsewhere Before Applying for Credit?
For purposes of tracking overall credit standing, regularly checking your FICO® Score or VantageScore will give you a good idea of your progress. When you're ready to apply for a loan or credit card, a more comprehensive approach may give you a better idea how lenders will likely view your application.
There's no way of knowing for certain which scoring system (or which version of it) a given lender will use, nor which credit bureau(s) it will use to source your credit history. Nevertheless, checking a generic credit score based on your credit report maintained at each of the three credit bureaus will give you a good idea where you stand.
While lenders of all kinds use generic credit scores in their lending decisions, some use specialized industry scores available from FICO.
- Credit card lenders may use the FICO Bankcard Score. It is designed to predict likelihood of repaying credit card debt, and uses a scale range of 250 to 900.
- Auto financers may use the FICO Auto Score. Like the Bankcard Score, it uses a score range of 250 to 900, but it is calibrated to predict likelihood of repaying auto loans.
Mortgage lenders issuing conforming loans eligible for sale to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are currently required by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to use "classic" FICO® Scores:
- FICO® Score 2, derived using Experian credit reports
- FICO® Score 4, based on TransUnion credit reports
- FICO® Score 5, calculated using Equifax credit data
Beginning in late 2024, FHFA has instructed mortgage lenders to begin phasing in the use of newer FICO® Score 10T and VantageScore 4.0 when evaluating borrowers for conforming loans.
How to Check Your Credit Score
You can likely obtain free generic credit scores from all three credit bureaus by mixing and matching what's available from your financial institution with other free services.
Both FICO and VantageScore maintain lists of free score providers. For instance, Experian provides access to your Experian credit reports and the FICO® Score 8 based upon your Experian credit score for free.
If you'd like to check your FICO Auto or Bankcard scores, consider signing up for an Experian CreditWorks℠ Premium membership.
Can I Get My Credit Report Through My Bank?
No, you can't get your credit report from a bank. The credit scores financial institutions offer are based on the information in credit reports, but those credit reports exist separately and are maintained by the three national credit bureaus.
To be sure your scores accurately reflect your credit history, it's important to check your credit reports regularly for inaccuracies and signs of unauthorized activity that could signify identity theft or credit fraud. If you find anything you believe to be amiss on your credit report, you have the right to file a dispute with the relevant credit bureau to have it corrected.
Checking your credit reports won't affect your credit scores.
How to Check Your Credit Report
You can get credit reports from:
How to Improve Your Credit Score
If you've been tracking your credit score through your financial institution without seeing improvement, you may need to adopt some new habits to increase your scores. Fortunately, actions that increase any given credit score will tend to bring improvement to all, since the same general factors contribute to all credit scores.
Steps to improving your credit scores can vary according to your credit history and current situation, but tried-and-true approaches include:
- Make payments on time. Payment history is the single most important influence on your FICO® Score, the score used by 90% of top lenders. Timely debt payments will tend to raise your scores, while just one payment that's 30 days or more overdue can cause a dramatic score drop. If you've missed a payment in the past, its negative effects will lessen over time, but working to make all payments on time will give you the best opportunity for improvement.
- Reduce revolving debt. Credit utilization ratio measures the outstanding balances on your credit cards and other revolving accounts. It's expressed as a percentage of your borrowing limits, and is another major factor contributing to credit scores. A general guideline is to keep utilization under 30%, but the lower your utilization, the better for your scores.
- Check your credit reports. Inaccuracies in your credit reports are relatively rare, but they can hurt your credit scores. Check your credit reports regularly and if you find any discrepancies, such as a reported late payment you made on time or an account you didn't apply for, you can dispute them with the credit bureau on whose credit report the information appears.
- Pay off collections. Debts that have been turned over to collection departments or agencies appear as negative entries on your credit reports and can seriously hurt your scores. Paying off these accounts may make you look better to lenders, since some newer credit scoring models (such as FICO® Score 9 and VantageScore 3.0 and 4.0) ignore paid-off collection accounts.
- Seek new credit only as needed. Credit applications generate credit report entries called hard inquiries that may cause slight reductions in your credit scores. Scores typically recover within a few months if you keep up with debt payments, but multiple hard inquiries for different types of credit in close succession can have a cumulative negative effect on your scores.
- Consider Experian Boost®ø. Enrolling in the free Experian Boost feature can add on-time payments for recurring expenses to your Experian credit report. By sharing payment information on utility and cellphone bills, streaming subscriptions and rent (if paid online), you can see instant improvement to FICO® Scores based on Experian credit data.
The Bottom Line
Checking credit scores through your bank can be a great way to track your progress at building your credit—or rebuilding it after a mishap or mistake that brought your scores down. By checking your free Experian credit report, you can help ensure the ongoing accuracy of your scores. With time and good credit habits, you can expect your score to show steady improvement.