How Do I Get My Real FICO Score?

woman in glasses sitting on a red chair thinking

At Experian, one of our priorities is consumer credit and finance education. This post may contain links and references to one or more of our partners, but we provide an objective view to help you make the best decisions. For more information, see our Editorial Policy.

You can get a real FICO® Score from many sources, including credit bureaus, lenders, credit card issuers and other financial institutions. There are many versions of the FICO® Score, and they may have different uses, but they're all real. When you're reviewing your score, you'll want to know which type of FICO® Score it is, and whether it's the best version to be looking at in your situation.

What Is a FICO® Score?

A FICO® Score is a credit score that's developed and offered by FICO®. The company, originally named Fair Isaac Corporation, released its first credit bureau-based credit score in the 1980s. Since then, FICO® has created different types of credit scores and released new versions of its scores that have updated how calculations are made.

For example, FICO® offers base FICO® Scores, such as FICO® Score 8, FICO® Score 9 and, its latest, FICO® Score 10. These are general-use scores designed for use by multiple types of lenders for a wide range of credit products. FICO® also publishes industry-specific credit scores, such as the FICO® Auto Score for auto lenders and FICO® Bankcard Score for use by credit card issuers.

The base scores range from 300 to 850, while industry-specific scores range from 250 to 900. Both types of scores are intended to predict the same thing: the likelihood that someone will be 90 days late on a payment within 24 months. FICO® does this by analyzing the information within your consumer credit reports from either Experian, TransUnion or Equifax.

FICO® builds different scoring models to align with how each bureau stores your information. Earlier versions of FICO® Scores even had different names based on the bureau, including the models that are still commonly used for mortgage underwriting:

  • Experian/Fair Isaac Risk Model v2 (FICO® Score 2)
  • Equifax Beacon 5.0 (FICO® Score 5)
  • TransUnion FICO® Risk Score 04 (FICO® Score 4)

Since the release of FICO® Score 8, each new base model has used the same version number across all three bureaus, but the models are still customized with the bureau in mind. VantageScore®, another credit scoring company, uses a tri-bureau model that scores credit reports from Experian, Equifax and TransUnion using the same methods.

FICO® and VantageScore credit scores are the most widely used credit scores, but other credit scoring companies are out there. For example, large creditors may use custom-built credit scores to help them evaluate new and current customers, and companies may publish educational credit scores for their customers to refer to. Educational scores may accurately assess your creditworthiness, but they shouldn't be relied on when making a decision to apply for credit since they can differ significantly from the scores used by lenders.

Which Credit Score Should You Check?

When you check your credit, you'll likely receive either a FICO® or VantageScore credit score. Your score will depend on which scoring model is being used and which credit report is being analyzed (because your credit reports likely aren't identical).

The type of score might not matter if you're looking for an estimate of where you stand or want to track whether your score is going up or down. Fortunately, credit scores tend to move in a similar direction as they all analyze your credit reports with the same general goal in mind.

Creditors can choose which score to use, and they don't have to disclose which of your credit reports or which score they are going to request ahead of time.

Knowing at least one of your general-use FICO® Scores, such as FICO® Score 8, could be helpful as creditors often use a FICO® Score when evaluating new credit applications. Also, many mortgage lenders use the earlier FICO® models mentioned above to comply with federal regulations. Knowing those three FICO® Scores could be helpful if you're shopping for a mortgage.

How to Get Your FICO® Score

There are several ways to get your FICO® Scores, both for free and at a cost.

You can get your FICO® Score for free from hundreds of financial services companies, including banks, credit unions, credit card issuers and credit counselors that participate in the FICO® Score Open Access program and offer free scores to customers.

For example, if you sign up for a free credit score from Experian, you'll get a FICO® Score 8 along with a copy of your credit report. Unlike some services that only track and show you your score, you'll then be able to review the underlying information (the credit report) that led to the score. Signing up for the Experian CreditWorksSM Premium program will provide access to your base FICO® Score 8 as well as your FICO® Score 2, FICO® Auto Score 2 and FICO® Bankcard Score 2.

FICO® also sells scores on and authorizes "FICO® Score retailers." These companies may offer free or paid access to FICO® Scores to consumers, and sometimes include additional products or services with your score.

Checking with your bank or current credit card issuers is another option you may have. For example, American Express cardholders can get a FICO® Score 8 based on their Experian credit report and Citi cardholders can get a FICO® Bankcard Score 8 based on their Equifax credit report.

Keep an Eye on Your Credit

Your real FICO® Score can be had for free in several ways, but if you want to check multiple FICO® Scores, you'll generally need to opt for a paid service. You can look for services that come with more than just your credit scores, such as Experian CreditWorks℠ Premium. Experian's service also includes free credit report and score monitoring with notifications if there are any suspicious changes. Additionally, you get a wide-range of identity theft monitoring and protection services, including dark web surveillance and up to $1 million in identity theft insurance.

You can also match your score checking or monitoring with your current needs. A free score tracking service can help you keep an eye on one of your FICO® Scores and give you a sense of if your credit is improving. But a paid service may make more sense if you want identity theft protection, or if you're planning to buy a home and want to check the FICO® Scores that mortgage lenders commonly use.

How Good Is Your Credit Score?

300 credit score301 credit score302 credit score303 credit score304 credit score305 credit score306 credit score307 credit score308 credit score309 credit score310 credit score311 credit score312 credit score313 credit score314 credit score315 credit score316 credit score317 credit score318 credit score319 credit score320 credit score321 credit score322 credit score323 credit score324 credit score325 credit score326 credit score327 credit score328 credit score329 credit score330 credit score331 credit score332 credit score333 credit score334 credit score335 credit score336 credit score337 credit score338 credit score339 credit score340 credit score341 credit score342 credit score343 credit score344 credit score345 credit score346 credit score347 credit score348 credit score349 credit score350 credit score351 credit score352 credit score353 credit score354 credit score355 credit score356 credit score357 credit score358 credit score359 credit score360 credit score361 credit score362 credit score363 credit score364 credit score365 credit score366 credit score367 credit score368 credit score369 credit score370 credit score371 credit score372 credit score373 credit score374 credit score375 credit score376 credit score377 credit score378 credit score379 credit score380 credit score381 credit score382 credit score383 credit score384 credit score385 credit score386 credit score387 credit score388 credit score389 credit score390 credit score391 credit score392 credit score393 credit score394 credit score395 credit score396 credit score397 credit score398 credit score399 credit score400 credit score401 credit score402 credit score403 credit score404 credit score405 credit score406 credit score407 credit score408 credit score409 credit score410 credit score411 credit score412 credit score413 credit score414 credit score415 credit score416 credit score417 credit score418 credit score419 credit score420 credit score421 credit score422 credit score423 credit score424 credit score425 credit score426 credit score427 credit score428 credit score429 credit score430 credit score431 credit score432 credit score433 credit score434 credit score435 credit score436 credit score437 credit score438 credit score439 credit score440 credit score441 credit score442 credit score443 credit score444 credit score445 credit score446 credit score447 credit score448 credit score449 credit score450 credit score451 credit score452 credit score453 credit score454 credit score455 credit score456 credit score457 credit score458 credit score459 credit score460 credit score461 credit score462 credit score463 credit score464 credit score465 credit score466 credit score467 credit score468 credit score469 credit score470 credit score471 credit score472 credit score473 credit score474 credit score475 credit score476 credit score477 credit score478 credit score479 credit score480 credit score481 credit score482 credit score483 credit score484 credit score485 credit score486 credit score487 credit score488 credit score489 credit score490 credit score491 credit score492 credit score493 credit score494 credit score495 credit score496 credit score497 credit score498 credit score499 credit score500 credit score501 credit score502 credit score503 credit score504 credit score505 credit score506 credit score507 credit score508 credit score509 credit score510 credit score511 credit score512 credit score513 credit score514 credit score515 credit score516 credit score517 credit score518 credit score519 credit score520 credit score521 credit score522 credit score523 credit score524 credit score525 credit score526 credit score527 credit score528 credit score529 credit score530 credit score531 credit score532 credit score533 credit score534 credit score535 credit score536 credit score537 credit score538 credit score539 credit score540 credit score541 credit score542 credit score543 credit score544 credit score545 credit score546 credit score547 credit score548 credit score549 credit score550 credit score551 credit score552 credit score553 credit score554 credit score555 credit score556 credit score557 credit score558 credit score559 credit score560 credit score561 credit score562 credit score563 credit score564 credit score565 credit score566 credit score567 credit score568 credit score569 credit score570 credit score571 credit score572 credit score573 credit score574 credit score575 credit score576 credit score577 credit score578 credit score579 credit score