U.S. Markets closed

Discover expands free FICO credit score program

Fred O. Williams

Discover will not just give away free credit scores to all its credit card holders, it will be adding an explanation telling them how the score got to be that way, the company announced Thursday.

The announcement marks an expansion of its previously announced rollout of free FICO credit scores to cardholders. In November, the company began providing free credit scores to holders of the Discover "it" card.

Thursday's announcement expands the perk to the Discover More, Discover Open Road, Discover Motiva, Miles by Discover and Escape by Discover cards. The scores will appear on cardholders' next monthly statements and are based on credit report data from TransUnion credit bureau. The company has more than 30 million consumer cardholders in the U.S.

"Beyond sharing the FICO score itself, we're now taking it one step further by providing consumers with the specific reasons their score is what it is," Senior Vice President of Brand and Acquisition Julie Loeger said in a press release. "A knowledgeable consumer is a powerful one." Included with the score will be two key factors that influence it, such as payment history, the amount owed or the length of credit history.

The scores are available under a program launched by FICO that allows banks that buy its scores to share them with customers at no extra cost.

FICO spokesman Anthony Sprauve said the company, formerly called Fair Isaac Co., is discussing the rollout of free credit scores at five other large credit card issuers, which he declined to name. Barclaycard US and First Bankcard, a division of First National Bank of Omaha, were the first issuers to announce they would provide scores to their cardholders through the FICO program.

Credit reports and credit scores are the tools used by lenders and others to assess consumers' risk. A credit report is a summary of a consumer's financial behavior; a credit score is a three-digit number distilled from a credit report. Consumers have had access to their credit reports for free once a year under a 2003 federal law, but credit scores have been available, with some exceptions, only if purchased, for about $20.

See related: FICO's 5 factors: The components of a credit score