How To Get A Free Experian FICO Credit Score

Published 3/29/09 (Modified 3/22/11)
By MoneyBlueBook

Updated Review Of Ways To Get Your Experian FICO Credit Score Now

For credit report and FICO credit score junkies like myself, I was completed stunned and floored when I heard the official announcement that the Experian credit reporting agency would no longer be making its Experian FICO credit score available to consumers from hereon, effective February 14, 2009 (Valentine's Day no less). However, in an odd marketing twist, the Experian FICO scores would continue to be made available to lenders and businesses - just not to the hapless consumers who are actually concerned about their own personal finances.

For those who work hard at monitoring their credit reports and credit scores, and take diligent steps to ensure the maintenance of perpetually high FICO's, this news release exploded into our midst like a cruel bomb shell. So am I overreacting or is this move by Experian as significant as I'm seemingly making it out to be?

Lack Of Access To Experian FICO Credit Scores Ultimately Favors Lenders and Hurts Consumers

At a time when banks have grown extra stingy when it comes to lending money and it's becoming even more important for consumers like you and I to monitor our credit reports and credit scores regularly, we are now losing yet another option of doing so. Experian is one of the three major credit reporting agencies that maintain massive historical databases of how individuals and businesses handle credit usage responsibilities. Fair Isaac Corporation is the company that developed the popular and widely used FICO credit score, which uses a complex formula to convert credit report data into three numerical digits representing credit worthiness. As one of the 3 major credit reporting bureaus, Experian's decision to stop offering FICO scores derived from its credit reporting data to consumers is a major blow to credit transparency and the further advancement of fair lending practices.

Fortunately, the other two big credit bureaus, Equifax and TransUnion, remain solidly under contract to allow FICO credit scores, so they shouldn't be disappearing anytime soon. However, by Experian unilaterally cutting off consumer access to Experian FICO credit scores, it essentially means that we now have access to 33 percent less important information than we did before in the past.

The inane aspect of this all is that while Experian has ended its agreement with Fair Isaac and MyFICO to sell Experian FICO credit scores to ordinary consumers, it has chosen to extend its contract to allow Experian FICO's to be sold to lenders. So while lenders, banks, and businesses will continue to have access to FICO credit scores based on Experian credit report data, consumers will now be partially blind to the precise information that lenders have during lending negotiations. This definitely stacks the lending odds against consumers, who are now going to be in the dark about a key metric component of their financial portfolio.

Frankly, the move by Experian to sever its 6 year partnership with MyFICO, while surprising given the current state of the economy and financial markets, isn't totally unexpected given the turbulent nature of the ongoing lawsuit between the two companies and the millions of dollars worth of FICO credit score revenue that Fair Isaac reaps each year from its monopolistic stranglehold over Experian. Unfortunately, consumers are still caught in the middle and will likely suffer by not having equal access to the entire array of credit scores and FICO data that Experian continues to offer the big lending banks.

Experian Credit Score Seekers Still Have Alternatives and Options (But Not Great Ones)

While access to our Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion credit reports remain unchanged, and we can still obtain our free credit reports annually courtesy of the federal government and various free online trial offers, Experian will no longer permit the developer of the FICO credit score to sell FICO products to consumers via the MyFICO website that utilize credit data from Experian credit reports. Unfortunately, current federal law under the Fair Credit Reporting Act only requires that the three major credit reporting agencies make our credit files available to us once a year, but there is no legal mandate that guarantees us access to our credit scores, FICO or otherwise, prior to applying for a loan.

However, while Experian will no longer make its credit data available to consumers for FICO credit score generation purposes, borrowers and consumers who desire to gain insight into their own Experian scores still have options. All indicators show that Experian is likely to continue peddling its own custom Experian PLUS Score and VantageScore variations to consumers. Unfortunately, while having them is better than nothing at all, these two credit score varieties are no where even close to the high adoption rates of FICO credit scores in terms of utilization by major lenders and banking institutions, and few lenders even acknowledge the use of the PLUS or Vantage Scores at this time. They are not even scored on the same numerical range or take into consideration the same proportional credit history factors - causing their current usefulness to be extremely suspect at best. Because these third party credit scores are not true FICO scores and are seldom used by the majority of lenders, they are frequently referred to as FAKO scores - mere distant seconds to the real thing.

Experian FICO Credit Scores Are Still Available, But In Very Limited Ways

So I guess the question remains - can you survive without the ability to get your official MyFICO credit score based on your Experian credit report information? Well, sure you can, but it may be somewhat more difficult to manage and improve your credit score over the long term. You can certainly still access your Experian Plus Fako score using Experian credit report data and get a general feel on where you stand in terms of your Experian credit data. The Experian Plus credit score, while not nearly the same as the FICO, uses a vaguely comparable (but not identical) scoring scale, similar to the FICO's 300-850 point scale for credit scoring.

You can also still purchase your FICO credit scores from Equifax or TransUnion via MyFICO's official website directly or through the credit agencies. While your Equifax and TransUnion produced FICO scores may be slightly different from your actual Experian FICO credit scores (due to data retention differences between the different credit reporting agencies), knowing these two other scores may give you a pretty accurate prediction of where you stand credit score-wise. Remember, you can still freely access your 3 annual credit reports and compare your Experian credit report data to that contained in your Equifax and TransUnion credit reports for rough comparison purposes.

Another way to project your Experian FICO score or your credit score in general is to utilize a free FICO credit score estimator such as the one being offered by MyFICO. The scoring accuracy of these simulators is debatable, but once again, it's better than nothing. Until Experian one day returns to the FICO fold (hey - it could happen), we'll simply have to make do and get by until a better alternative comes along. Aside from somehow being able to fake your identity and pose as a lender to get your hands on your actual Experian FICO credit score (I've tried), currently only lenders will continue to get direct access to Experian FICO credit scores.

However, another definitive way to get your genuine Experian FICO credit score is to simply apply for a major loan such as a mortgage for a home, and let the authorized lenders pull your scores for you. Consumers who apply for loans or mortgages can still get all 3 of their FICO credit scores through legitimate lenders. While many lenders usually only utilize the services of one credit reporting agency at a time, home mortgage lenders generally utilize all 3 for greater accuracy sake. When you apply for a home mortgage loan, more likely than not, your lending agent will submit a request for all 3 of your credit reports and all 3 of your FICO credit scores from the three credit agencies of Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, when evaluating your claim request. Of course, while this is one sure fire way to get your Experian FICO credit score, it is important to realize that by authorizing the lender to pull your credit report and credit scores for lending purposes, you are consenting to a hard credit check that acts as an official credit score dinging inquiry. While personal look ups of one's own credit report through sites like FreeCreditReport.com or AnnualCreditReport.com result in no impact against your credit score, when banks or lending institutions do it for you pursuant to a loan application, this triggers a hard credit pull that does harm your credit score, albeit usually just for the short term.

Other than taking the hard credit check hit on your FICO to get a peak at your actual Experian FICO credit score, certain consumers may still be eligible to get continued access to their Experian generated FICO scores. The current list of institutions is small, but the list may ultimately expand depending on what type of special future agreements Experian decides to sign.

Currently, customers of the Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union (PSECU) continue to have access to their Experian FICO scores through the PSECU Free FICO Score Service, thanks to a deal the credit union previously inked with Experian. While other lenders such as HSBC via its Sears Solution MasterCard, and the bank formerly known as Washington Mutual via its WaMu credit cards, offer(ed) similar free FICO credit score programs with Equifax and TransUnion, none except PSECU currently has an active deal with Experian.

I have looked into the matter and it is my current understanding that the PSECU credit union continues to pull free credit reports and free FICO scores via Experian, posting new scores online each month via its online banking site. There is no charge for the generous perk, but to participate in the FICO score service, you must have a checking account with PSECU or an active PSECU Loan.

While I am not currently a Pennsylvania state resident, nor am I related to anyone living in the state, I still made an effort to swindle (I can't help it, I'm an arbitrage seeker) my way into getting an account at PSECU bank - for the sake of satisfying my FICO mania and getting my hands on one of those monthly free Experian FICO scores. Unfortunately, not everyone is eligible to participate and join the credit union as their qualifications are rather strict, and as such I was quickly denied. Here are the basic eligibility qualifications. Sadly, other than moving there and becoming domiciled in Pennsylvania, that seems to be the only legitimate way to join. However, if you are a Pennsylvania resident, are currently a Pennsylvania state employee, or attended a participating small private college in Pennsylvania, you may be able to qualify for a bank account with the credit union.

Hopefully this cooperation agreement between Experian and the Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union signifies the beginning of a trend to offer authentic FICO's and free credit scores for consumers of other banks and credit unions as well. Has anyone out there successfully signed up for a new account with PSECU and successfully gotten access to their free monthly Experian FICO credit scores? Please share your experience!

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14 Responses to “How To Get A Free Experian FICO Credit Score” 

  1. Amir says:

    Is this even legal?? I mean, how can they deprive consumers from such integral piece of information that can have severe long lasting consequences?

  2. Raymond says:

    Well, Experian's decision to not renew its long standing agreement with Fair Isaac to continue providing Experian FICO credit scores to consumers, while distasteful, is pretty legal and well within its right.

    More likely than not, the move was a marketing ploy to either force MyFICO to consent to more reasonable commission terms in the use of its FICO scores, or a long term plan on the part of Experian to push forward its own credit score products to supplant the current monopoly that FICO scores enjoy.

    Yeah, but either way, their decision to stop offering Experian FICO's to consumers but continue to let businesses have access to them really sucks.

  3. Tostada-man says:

    This is a great article!

    I am also a FICO freak. And it really bothers me that now I can only make educated financial decisions with access to only 66% of the available data. I'm sure Experian's executives will not dare to make any money-risk decision with less than 80% data, yet we only have 66%.

    By the way, Experian is a company based in Dublin, IRELAND. It has offices in the US, but main HQ is in Europe. Not a US company, not bound to follow US laws? Gray area here??????

  4. Raymond says:

    That's interesting...hmm..I actually had no idea that Experian was actually an Irish company...I had always sort of assumed they were an American institution. Well, if they are operating businesses in the United States then they are usually required to follow all appropriate U.S. laws and regulations. Not much of a negotiable gray area here...

    But you are correct when pointing out that Experian executives themselves would never dare make any significant risk based credit decisions without having before them all necessary data. Some have even suggested that this is all a giant conspiracy between Experian and its major lending partners to withhold this key Experian FICO score data from consumers to skew loan and mortgage negotiations against consumers in favor of big businesses...but it's probably just one of those random theories..

    I really hope Experian reconsiders and ultimately decides to work something out with MyFICO...

  5. DebtGoal says:

    This is a lengthy list of books. Is one of them particularly helpful to people that have existing debt, and now want to optimize (and speed up) their debt elimination process?

  6. Raymond says:

    Debt Goal,

    Hmmm...I think you posted this particular comment on the wrong blog post. Are you referring to one my later posts reviewing the top personal finance books?

  7. Herculano Fecteau says:

    I'm not willing to be as passive as other folks here who have "registered their disappointment" and who "hope" that Experian and FICO will "work things out". I'm ticked off royally that this company has decided to deny me access to information about my own creditworthiness while continuing to relay that same information to present and potential creditors. I think it's time that Experian wakes up and smells the coffee -- the Obama administration has already passed some legislation to protect consumers from (some, not enough) credit card abuses, and people in general throughout the nation are fed up and demanding more protection from banks, mortgage and insurance companies, and from the rest of the billionaire bright boys who got us into the current mess.

    I'm going to contact my representatives in the U.S. House and Senate and pressure them to write and pass new legislation requiring Experian to provide scores to those willing to pay for them -- if what they've done isn't illegal already, we can work to make it illegal. (The legislation should require this, in fact, from all three agencies -- what's to stop the other two, as it stands right now, from trying to do the same thing?) I'll also ask that they include provisions that the three credit reporting agencies provide Americans with free annual scores, as well as free annual credit reports.

    And since I was at myFICO's website today, wanting to purchase my three reports and scores, I may as wel contact them, by phone and e-mail, and let them know that I won't be doing business with them anymore either, since their products no longer can provide me with a complete and accurate picture of my credit standing. You know damn well that if they realize they're going to start losing money, they might ramp up their own lobbying to put pressure on Congress to do something about Experian.

    I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore.

  8. Sky113 says:

    Herculano Fecteau, I completely agree with you, I don't understand how they are even allowed to do this. Fine if they stop providing FICO scores to consumers then they should not be allowed to provide this score to the banks and or other lending institutions. They should then close their doors and leave us with the two other companies, but we all know thats not going to happen.
    Did you get a response from the representatives in the U.S. House and Senate?

  9. JC, San Diego, CA says:

    Here we are, nearly 14 months since Experian stopped allowing consumers direct access to their FICO score via myfico.com, and nothing has changed. I care nothing about other non-FICO-based scores, or FAKOs as they're often called on chat forums, since hardly any credit decision-makers actually use them. C'mon Experian, get off the FAKO can and get back on the FICO stick!

    Also, regarding myfico.com's offerings...their TransUnion FICO score's consumer offering is woefully outdated; utilizing the FICO '98 classic scoring model rather than the more widely used FICO '04 model, as Equifax utilizes for myfico scores (and Experian once used). C'mon TransUnion and myfico.com, update the TransUnion FICO to the '04 version, so we have something only mildly archaic (FICO 08 is out but still an infant in utilization).

  10. howard sobel says:

    i belong to my fico but havnt received a score watch or any other report for months. now i find out that experian no longer is associated with my fico. what can i do to continue to receive score watch OR OTHER SIMILAR reports?

  11. Aida says:

    I don't think this is right, so much for the FAIR Credit Reporting Act. Everyone should have access to all 3 credit scores and reports. The fact that Experian can sell this information to lenders, yet now allow consumers to access their own information isn't right. Since credit scores are so important in making big financial decisions, we should be able to access them, even if it is at a fee.

  12. fcmoney.com says:

    did you have any other source when consumer can find fico credit score without actually applying for any credit or extension of a credit?

  13. Greg G says:

    I got my car loan from psecu I had to join a parks association for 5 bucks, this allowed me to get an account and thus my auto loan. Unfortunately it is the TU Fico classic 04 score that is my mid score and it does not seem to correlate to anything I can get my hands on. This is what my mortgage lender is looking at! I need TU to be 620. Psecu say my experian Fico is 675 I don't know what Fico model Psecu uses but as you can see it is not what my lender got! 684 XPN FairIsaac (V2), 612 TU FICORiskScoreClassic04, 592 EFX FACTABeacon5.0

  14. Niko says:

    OMG is THIS why it's been so hard to find my Experian score online? I'm trying to buy the house I currently rent, but don't want a credit inquiry dinging my report/score before I go to the lender for a mortgage, yet it seems that's the only way I can get one now. I can find Transunion score on free on creditkarma.com & I can find Equifax score free on quizzle.com but have found nothing for Experian (And that's usually the one most often used)

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